`Grant Recipient to Study Impacts of Polyphenols on DNA Function - Olive Oil Times

Grant Recipient to Study Impacts of Polyphenols on DNA Function

By Kenaz Filan
May. 13, 2021 08:51 UTC

Spanish grad­u­ate stu­dent Andrea del Saz Lara has received a four-year grant from the International Olive Council (IOC) for her Ph.D. stud­ies and research for her the­sis: Epigenomic con­se­quences of hydrox­y­ty­rosol con­sump­tion in car­diometa­bolic dis­eases.

One of the con­di­tions for being awarded the grant was that you had to research olive oil,” del Saz told Olive Oil Times. Honestly, I was not aware of all the prop­er­ties and ben­e­fits wor­thy of the study of this food. We all know that olive oil is good for our health, but we usu­ally don’t know why.”

The pos­si­bil­ity of pre­vent­ing cer­tain dis­eases thanks to some bioac­tive foods such as olive oil is won­der­ful and very wor­thy of fur­ther study.- Andrea del Saz Lara, researcher, IMDEA Food Institute

Del Saz’s research focuses on epige­nomics. Epigenomes are chem­i­cal com­pounds and pro­teins which mod­ify DNA func­tions. Epigenomic com­pounds do not alter the under­ly­ing DNA sequence but change the way cells respond to the DNA’s instruc­tions.

With the schol­ar­ship, del Saz will con­tinue her research on epigenomes at the Madrid-based IMDEA Food Institute.

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The work they do seems very inter­est­ing to me,” she said. The field of epi­ge­net­ics, and more specif­i­cally that of microRNAs, is still lit­tle researched and offers many pos­si­ble bio­med­ical appli­ca­tions.”

In addi­tion, the area of nutrige­nomics and per­son­al­ized nutri­tion is cur­rently boom­ing and I think that the pos­si­bil­ity of pre­vent­ing cer­tain dis­eases thanks to some bioac­tive foods such as olive oil is won­der­ful and very wor­thy of fur­ther study,” she added.

Researchers are cur­rently seek­ing new ways to pro­mote ben­e­fi­cial epigenomes and sup­press harm­ful ones. Many are look­ing at one of the world’s old­est health foods: olive oil. Decades of research have demon­strated that the phys­i­cally obtained fruit juice has a range of health ben­e­fits.


Andrea del Saz Lara

At the mol­e­c­u­lar level, it is amaz­ing how many changes olive oil is capa­ble of induc­ing,” del Saz said. It con­tains com­pounds called polyphe­nols, which are attrib­uted with antiox­i­dant and anti-inflam­ma­tory prop­er­ties.”

One of olive oil’s most ben­e­fi­cial polyphe­nols is hydrox­y­ty­rosol, which gives olive oil its dis­tinc­tive fla­vor and aroma and has demon­strated pro­tec­tive qual­i­ties against car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­eases, can­cer and acquired immun­od­e­fi­ciency syn­drome (AIDS).

Cardiometabolic dis­eases include hyper­ten­sion, dia­betes, high cho­les­terol and adi­pos­ity (belly fat). In the United States, about 655,000 Americans die from heart dis­ease each year – one in every four U.S. deaths. People with car­diometa­bolic dis­eases are twice as likely to die from coro­nary heart dis­ease and three times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

MicroRNAs (miRNAs), small pieces of RNA that tar­get genes and inter­fere with bio­log­i­cal processes, play a role in obe­sity, inflam­ma­tion, and belly fat devel­op­ment. MiRNAs are involved in fat pro­duc­tion and are asso­ci­ated with cell-sig­nal­ing pro­teins linked to dia­betes, obe­sity and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease.

Hydroxytyrosol reduces the pro­duc­tion of sev­eral harm­ful miRNAs and low­ers con­cen­tra­tions of inflam­ma­tory enzymes. Hydroxytyrosol also increases the pro­duc­tion of eNOS, an enzyme that reg­u­lates blood ves­sel con­stric­tion and clot­ting and is essen­tial for car­dio­vas­cu­lar health.

Del Saz’s research will eval­u­ate the bio­log­i­cal effects of hydrox­y­ty­rosol con­sump­tion in patients with non-alco­holic fatty liver dis­ease through clin­i­cal tri­als which mea­sure liver func­tion, oxida­tive stress bio­mark­ers and inflam­ma­tory enzymes. She will also assess the impact hydrox­y­ty­rosol has on miRNAs and other epige­nomic func­tions.

The most impor­tant thing I have learned is that we are what we eat and that we must take care of our diet if we want to main­tain our health,” she said. Until now, I had not been aware of how the nutri­ents we ingest mod­ify the way our genes are reg­u­lated and how this can induce the appear­ance of some dis­eases.”

Del Saz is a grad­u­ate of the University of Castille-La Mancha and received a Master’s degree in exper­i­men­tal bio­med­i­cine in 2020. With the help of the IOC grant, she will con­tinue con­duct­ing her research at the IMDEA Food Institute.

I wanted to con­tinue with my pre­doc­toral stud­ies, but with­out fund­ing, it was very com­pli­cated,” del Saz said. I will always remem­ber the day they con­firmed that I had been awarded the schol­ar­ship as one of the hap­pi­est days of my life. For me, research is a dream.”


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