Sunday, September 04, 2005

Olive oil is good for you

Scientists have found that extra virgin olive oil contains a compound similar to ibuprofin.
The "tip off" that olive oil contains something special, says Breslin, is that it delivers a slight sting in the throat similar to that of the pain-relieving drug ibuprofen. After hunting through the oil's chemical ingredients, the team found that the cause of the sting was a small molecule called oleocanthal, present in high concentration only in freshly pressed extra-virgin olive oil. ...
Oleocanthal appears to be the real deal. Biochemical tests showed that, just like ibuprofen, aspirin, and other nonsteroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), the compound potently inhibited two enzymes in the inflammation pathway, called COX-1 and COX-2. (from the summary in Science)
The question remains whether low doses of ibuprofin (or similar compounds) actually benefit health.
A daily dose of 50 g or 4 tablespoons of olive oil confers the equivalent of around 10% of the recommended ibuprofen dose for adult pain relief, say researchers led by Paul Breslin of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, who discovered the effect. So although it won't cure a headache, it may give you some of the long-term benefits of repeated ibuprofen use, including helping to ward off Alzheimer's. ...
Does the discovery help to explain the folklore that a Mediterranean diet is good for a healthy, long life? Probably, says Breslin. The long-term benefits of ibuprofen have only been demonstrated for doses that are much larger than the amount of oleocanthal provided by 4 tablespoons of oil a day. But Breslin suspects that smaller daily doses might have the same effect.

So how do you know which olive oil will give you the biggest dose? Simple, just go for the authentic Mediterranean taste, says Breslin. "Most supermarket-style extra-virgin olive oils will be relatively low in this compound," he explains. "But there are inexpensive olive oils available that have high levels. I buy mine at a local Greek store that imports oils directly from Crete and other Greek locales."
(from the summary by Nature)
• Learn more about the Mediterranean diet.
Possible health benefits of olive oil (Harvard School of Public Health).

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