Olive oil (OO) polyphenols have been shown to improve HDL anti-atherogenic function, thus demonstrating beneficial effects against cardiovascular risk factors. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of extra virgin high polyphenol olive oil (HPOO) v. low polyphenol olive oil (LPOO) on the capacity of HDL to promote cholesterol efflux in healthy adults. In a double-blind, randomised cross-over trial, fifty participants (aged 38·5 (sd 13·9) years, 66 % females) were supplemented with a daily dose (60 ml) of HPOO (320 mg/kg polyphenols) or LPOO (86 mg/kg polyphenols) for 3 weeks. Following a 2-week washout period, participants crossed over to the alternate treatment. Serum HDL-cholesterol efflux capacity, circulating lipids (i.e. total cholesterol, TAG, HDL, LDL) and anthropometrics were measured at baseline and follow-up. No significant between-group differences were observed. Furthermore, no significant changes in HDL-cholesterol efflux were found within either the LPOO and HPOO treatment arms; mean changes were 0·54 % (95 % CI (0·29, 1·37)) and 0·10 % (95 % CI (0·74, 0·94)), respectively. Serum HDL increased significantly after LPOO and HPOO intake by 0·13 mmol/l (95 % CI (0·04, 0·22)) and 0·10 mmol/l (95 % CI (0·02, 0·19)), respectively. A small but significant increase in LDL of 0·14 mmol/l (95 % CI (0·001, 0·28)) was observed following the HPOO intervention. Our results suggest that additional research is warranted to further understand the effect of OO with different phenolic content on mechanisms of cholesterol efflux via different pathways in multi-ethnic populations with diverse diets.