Olive oil, especially the extra virgin type, is known to possess numerous health benefits. Almost every day studies are revealing more and more health benefits of this liquid fat obtained from olives. However, scientists know very little about the physiological and biological mechanisms behind these benefits.
Now, a new research suggests olive oil may neutralize a range of health problems caused by Western-style diets.
The medical research community is only just beginning to understand the innumerable ways olive oil can enhance our health, and transform our lives.
Considered a panacea for all ills in the Mediterranean region, extra virgin olive oil is the foundation of the Mediterranean diet. Med diet is the indispensable nutritional centerpiece for the longest-living cultures of the world.
This new research from Chile suggests extra virgin olive oil contains a compound that can protect against diabetes, liver disease, heart attacks and strokes.
The study, done on mouse model, has revealed that a compound normally found in extra-virgin olive oil can reverse some of the bad effects of a high-fat diet. This compound, called hydroxytyrosol, reversed signs of insulin resistance – a precursor of diabetesin mice fed on a high-fat diet.
Hydroxytyrosol was also able to reverse non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in these mice by reducing liver enzymes that are associated with an imbalance in the fatty acid composition of the liver, heart, and brain as well as surge their activity.
The research team was led by Dr. Rodrigo Valenzuela from the University of Chile in Santiago, Chile.
Dr. Valenzuela and colleagues set out to examine the effects of hydroxytyrosol on the health of mice.
Hydroxytyrosol is a polyphenol, which is known to have antioxidant properties and may play an important role in its health benefits.
This new research, however, demonstrates that hydroxytyrosol also has a protective effect on the liver.
“Our research shows that in mice fed on a high-fat diet, hydroxytyrosol exerts a protective effect in the liver,” says Dr. Valenzuela.
The researchers analyzed certain enzymes that play a key part in the synthesis of some polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). These fatty acids are beneficial to our health because they help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as bad cholesterol, boost cardiovascular health, brain function, and cell growth.
Dr. Valenzuela and his team fed four groups of mice, each comprising 12 to 14 rodents, either a high-fat diet (60% fat) or a control diet (only 10% fat). Additionally, some mice received diet supplemented with 5 mg hydroxytyrosol per kg body weight, and was fed orally, for a 12 week period.
The team collected blood and tissue samples at the end of the experiment to investigate the dietary effects on oxidative stress, fatty acid composition and the activity of the enzymes in multiple organs.
Blood sample analysis showed a boost in cholesterol levels, which can lead to heart attack and stroke, in mice fed a high fat diet. However, these levels were reduced by hydroxytyrosol.
A high-fat diet also increased biological markers, or signs, of insulin resistance. Once more, these markers were reduced in the mice that had also taken hydroxytyrosol. However, these markers were not as low as the levels seen in the mice that had been on a regular diet.
Notably, mice that consumed a high-fat diet displayed reduced levels of the liver enzymes that aid in synthesizing the helpful PUFAs.
The mice whose high-fat diet was also supplemented with hydroxytyrosol revealed enzymatic activity and fatty acid composition identical to that of the mice that were fed a normal diet. This suggests that hydroxytyrosol supplementation reversed the harmful effects of a high-fat diet.
Explaining the findings, Dr. Valenzuela says:
“Our results indicate that hydroxytyrosol may be a key part of the health benefits of extra-virgin olive oil.
The findings were published in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease.