All of us know that olive oil contains a high amount of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that exerts multiple benefits to our health. Actually since 2003 , the FDA in the US approved a qualified health claim for monounstarurated fat from olive oil and reduced risk of coronary heart disease.
But extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) also contains another minor compounds that exert important physiological actions that bring about cardioprotection, chemoprevention, and prevention of neurodegenerative processes. Hydroxytyrosol is one of the major of those compounds.
Regarding cardioprotection, in Europe the most relevant achievement has come from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) who granted a health claim about hydroxytyrosol and the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress. A wide number of clinical studies have shown this activity. Arteriosclerosis is considered as one of the most common risks in cardiovascular diseases. Hydroxytyrosol would help prevent from this problema.
One of the major challenges of current public health policy is the increasing prevalence of mental illness and neurodegenerative diseases, which is largely due to the rapid aging of the Western,i.e., European and American population. In socio-economic terms, this phenomenon is placing a heavy burden on national health care systems and on the overall population. Preventive strategies are indispensable and the most effective one is the early adoption of a healthy lifestyle and appropriate diet.
Epidemiological studies have consistently associated olive oil consumption with better cognition. Moreover, several meta-analyses of observational studies suggest that using olive oil as the main culinary fat can reduce the incidence of depression. Even though these association might be casual, some ad hoc studies with olive biophenols are being undertaken. One example is that of hydroxytyrosol, which was able to restore proper insulin signaling in an in vitro model of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). It is also noteworthy that Qosa et al. tested the effects of EVOO and of oleocanthal in a transgenic mouse model of AD. They reported lower beta-amyloid deposition, which corroborates the scant in vitro data available thus far.
Our extract Hytolive®, rich in natural hydroxytyrosol has been proven effective on animals as a neuroprotector agent.
Several epidemiological studies consistently report an inverse association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and incidence of breast cancer.
In addition to inflammation some mechanistic studies have been performed to explain the potential preventive actions of olive oil biophenols on cancer. Mechanisms of action might include inhibition of cell proliferation and tumor progression as well as increased rates of apoptosis.
Secondary analysis from the Prevention with Mediterranean Diet (PREDIMED) study assessed the effect of a dietary intervention encouraging the adherence to a Mediterranean diet on the incidence of postmenopausal breast cancer among 4.152 women aged from 60 to 80 years of age. The results showed that women who consumed at least 15% of EVOO in terms of total energy intake exhibited a significant reduction in breast cancer risk when compared to women for which extra-virgin olive oil consumption was lower than 5% of total caloric intake. Whether the preventive effects of olive oil are due to its biophenols or to other unknown confounders is a matter for further investigation.
In future articles we will give more details of each application so that we understand how hydroxytyrosol and extra virgin olive oil benefit us.
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