Over the last year I have been writ­ing about the con­tro­versy in Greece over the imple­men­ta­tion of EU label­ing reg­u­la­tion 432/​2012 which states: “Olive oil polyphe­nols con­tribute to the pro­tec­tion of blood lipids from oxida­tive stress.”
See more: Greece Flip-​Flops on EVOO Labeling
The reg­u­la­tion fur­ther states, “the claim may be used only for olive oil which con­tains at least 5 mg of hydrox­y­ty­rosol and its deriv­a­tives (e.g. oleu­ropein com­plex and tyrosol) per 20 g of olive oil. In order to bear the claim infor­ma­tion shall be given to the con­sumer that the ben­e­fi­cial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 20 g of olive oil.”

In other words, 250mg of polyphe­nols per kg of EVOO would be needed to qual­ify for the health claim.

Since the reg­u­la­tion has come into effect, I am aware of no EVOO on the mar­ket in Europe that has placed this health claim on their label (though the claim is widely cited on web­sites and mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als), and it was the first time a spe­cific quan­tity of polyphe­nols was required to jus­tify a health claim for EVOO.

Athanasios Tsaftaris

The debate began when a ques­tion was posed to the Greek min­is­ter for Agricultural Development and Food Mr. Athanasios Tsaftaris, who responded by say­ing “oleo­can­thal and olea­cein can­not be used to make any health claims because they are not included in the EU Regulation 432/​2012.”

After that response from Mr. Tsaftaris, I did some addi­tional research and dis­cov­ered this reg­u­la­tion was mainly based on the EUROLIVE human study con­ducted by Dr. María-​Isabel Covas who was head of the Cardiovascular Risk and Nutrition Research Group at the IMIM-​Research Institute, Hospital del Mar in Barcelona, Spain. I could not find her email but I did locate the email of Dr. Valentini Konstantinidou who worked with Dr. Covas and con­tacted her seek­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tion. Since they chose three dif­fer­ent qual­i­ties of vir­gin olive oil to use in the EUROLIVE human study they must be based on the pres­ence of spe­cific amount of phe­no­lic com­pounds they could mea­sure.

I was curi­ous about why the EUROLIVE study gave the total phe­no­lic con­tent of the oils they used but not the spe­cific phe­no­lic com­pounds present in the three dif­fer­ent qual­i­ties of VOO they chose.

Dr. Konstantinidou responded the next day to my email:

“First of all, in the EUROLIVE study, tyrosol and hydrox­y­ty­rosol were mea­sured as bio­mark­ers of com­pli­ance in urine sam­ples of the vol­un­teers. Also they were used to clas­sify the used olive oils accord­ing to their high, medium and low con­tent.

Secondly, the deriv­a­tives of hydrox­y­ty­rosol, are not all well-​defined nor eas­ily extracted yet. That is because there are so many oth­ers fac­tors in our gas­troin­testi­nal track that affect the for­mu­la­tion of these deriv­a­tives, such as (but not lim­ited to) micro­biota. Thus, hydrox­y­ty­rosol, tyrosol and oleo­can­thal could be mea­sured in the EVOO but are not the only ones there. Also, they are not the only ones that could serve as bio­mark­ers of com­pli­ance in humans (maybe the most abun­dant until now).”

The prob­lem was that some key indi­vid­ual polyphe­nols could not be mea­sured accu­rately at the time using HPLC(High-Performance Liquid Chromatography). In 2012 how­ever, Dr. Magiatis from the University of Athens was able to invent an accu­rate method of mea­sur­ing indi­vid­ual phe­no­lic com­pounds such as oleo­can­thal and olea­cein and oth­ers using NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance).

In response to my ques­tion regard­ing the NMR method of mea­sure­ment of indi­vid­ual phe­no­lic com­pounds in EVOO, Dr. Konstantinidou went on to say: “I have no hands-​on expe­ri­ence on the NMR method that Dr. Magiatis has devel­oped, but as far as I know, I believe there is grand poten­tial there. NMR could replace HPLC and maybe estab­lished as a ref­er­ence method for the mea­sure­ment of these phe­nols in EVOO. I believe more repli­ca­tion and/​or stan­dard­iza­tion is needed.”

I then requested Dr. Konstantinidou’s per­mis­sion to pub­lish her response and if she was not agree­able per­haps she could pass on my request for clar­i­fi­ca­tion to Dr. Covas for an offi­cial response. Dr. Covas opin­ion would give the defin­i­tive answer as to which phe­no­lic com­pounds could be mea­sured in order to com­ply with EU reg­u­la­tion 432/​2012.

The next day I received this email from Dr. Covas: “EFSA claim refer to hydrox­y­ty­rosol and deriv­a­tives (includ­ing tyrosol). Hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol are present in olive oil as free forms but mainly as con­ju­gates (i. e. oleu­ropein and ligstro­sides). Thus all forms (free and con­ju­gates) in which tyrosol and hydrox­y­ty­rosol are present must be mea­sured.”

Therefore, hydrox­y­ty­rosol, tyrosol and all their deriv­a­tives can be mea­sured for com­pli­ance. According to Dr. Magiatis, these would include oleo­can­thal, olea­cein, oleu­ropein agly­con, and ligstro­side agly­con.

As of the date of this pub­li­ca­tion I have not received a response from the EU on whether oleo­can­thal and olea­cein can be included in the mea­sure­ment of polyphe­nols in order to com­ply with EU reg­u­la­tion 432/​2012.


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