There’s More to Olives than the Oil

Although I’m a huge fan of olive oil, there is more to the olive tree than the oil alone. The leaves and fruits are also excellent sources of polyphenols and other nutrients that can significantly enhance your life. In fact, scientific and clinical research has discovered olive leaves and fruit contain concentrated levels of beneficial nutrients in even more significant quantities than the oil. These include oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol, oleanolic acid, and tocopherols, the most well-known of which is alpha tocopherol, or vitamin E.

Healthy Aging

Since olives and olive oil are so prominent in the Mediterranean diet, many feel olive nutrients are primarily responsible for the longevity and good health of people in that region. And they would be right.

Olives are rich in alpha tocopherol, the bioactive form of vitamin E best absorbed and retained by the body. This fat-soluble vitamin strengthens the structures and membranes of cells, preserving them from the detrimental effects of free radicals and oxidative stress, which has far-reaching effects.

For example, researchers have found that alpha tocopherol protects the nervous system, potentially reducing the risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s disease. This nutrient’s strong antioxidant activity also preserves muscle strength and improves muscle repair, so it’s an excellent partner to any exercise regimen. Alpha tocopherol also makes the energy output of skeletal muscles more efficient and increases fat oxidation and metabolism. Likewise, the polyphenol hydroxytyrosol scavenges free radicals and activates superoxide dismutase and glutathione, two of the body’s master antioxidants. It is also a potent anti-inflammatory, protecting against premature aging in multiple ways.

Cardio Strengthening

According to the American Heart Association, nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure, and many of them don’t even know it. If your blood pressure numbers are increasing, there are ways to keep them in check without prescription drugs: an anti-inflammatory, wholesome diet featuring plenty of fruits, vegetables, unprocessed proteins, and healthy fats; consistent, regular exercise; and time to de-stress. Supplementing with olive leaf and fruit extracts is another. Olive leaf extract standardized for oleuropein has shown remarkable results in lowering blood pressure. One clinical study found olive leaf extract was equal to a prescription drug – and possibly even better, considering it also significantly lowered triglyceride levels, something the drug didn’t do. Another study found that olive leaf extract, at dosages up to 1,000 mg daily, lowered systolic pressure by as much as 13 points and diastolic pressure by an average of 5 points. It reduced LDL cholesterol levels as well. Of course, these results take time, so I encourage you to stick with an olive leaf and fruit extract regimen for at least 3 months to start seeing consistent results. In additional laboratory studies, oleanolic acid and other olive compounds reduced triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol by 70 percent! It also restored levels of healthy liver enzymes, which are often depleted by high-fat diets or conditions like metabolic syndrome.

Brain Protecting

One of the great attributes of olive leaf and fruit compounds like hydroxytyrosol and oleanolic acid is their ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. This makes them powerful allies in preventing brain tissue damage and stopping or slowing threats to cognitive function.

Cancer Fighting

Compounds from olive leaves and fruits provide a strong defense against cancer, including leukemia, pancreatic, breast, and prostate cancer. Both oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol have been shown in cell studies to inhibit breast and prostate cancers and promote apoptosis in cancer cells —the programmed cell death that prevents tumor formation and spread—without harming healthy cells.

Immune Defending

Researchers are exploring the many ways that olive oil compounds stabilize cells throughout the body, and have antimicrobial power, strengthening the immune system. Oleanolic acid alone can stop listeria (Listeria monocytogenes) and Enterococcus faecium, a bacteria associated with infected wounds, urinary tract infections, and prostatitis. The olive compound damages the cell walls of the bacteria, preventing it from surviving and spreading. In this era of increasingly ineffective antibiotics, oleanolic acid could be the next preventative medicine that stops post-operative infections or bolsters a weakened immune system due to chronic disease.

The nutrients in olive leaves and fruits deliver astonishing benefits. In addition to the health concerns outlined here, they can moderate blood sugar, preserve bone density, stop bacterial infections, and fight inflammation and oxidative damage throughout the body.

If you love olive oil, by all means, keep on enjoying it. But I also think that adding a full-spectrum olive leaf and fruit extract to your regimen is one of the best ways of conveniently and consistently getting the synergistic benefits of olive nutrients every day.

 

Michael Chase, MS, NTP
Nutrition Science and Dietetics

DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this post is for educational purposes only, and should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. No action should be taken based solely on the contents of this information. Individuals should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. The statements made in this informational document have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any product discussed is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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