Olive Oil Could Help Prevent Life-Threatening Food Poisoning

A recent study suggests omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in foods like olive oil, walnuts and fish, can neutralize listeriosis-causing bacteria without increasing its resistance to antibiotics.

Jun. 7, 2017
By Anthony Vasquez-Peddie

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Olive oil, wal­nuts and fish may be able to pre­vent poten­tially fatal food poi­son­ing.

A recent study sug­gests omega‑3 fatty acids, such as those found in the pre­vi­ously men­tioned foods, can neu­tral­ize lis­te­rio­sis-caus­ing bac­te­ria with­out increas­ing its resis­tance to med­ica­tion. It does this by deac­ti­vat­ing the genes in the lis­te­ria bac­te­ria that cause infec­tion.

Common, nat­u­rally occur­ring fatty acids can switch off the spe­cific genes that make the lis­te­ria bac­terium dan­ger­ous.- Birgitte Kallipolitis, University of South Denmark

It’s inter­est­ing that nat­u­rally occur­ring, com­pletely harm­less and actu­ally healthy fatty acids can be used to sup­press dan­ger­ous bac­te­ria such as lis­te­ria,” Birgitte Kallipolitis, a pro­fes­sor at the University of South Denmark and one of the study’s authors, told Medical News Today. The long-term per­spec­tive is that it may prove pos­si­ble to develop new treat­ment meth­ods. Not only against Listeria, but also against other dan­ger­ous bac­te­ria that are cur­rently resis­tant to antibi­otics.”

Listeriosis afflicts about 1,600 peo­ple and kills 260 in the U.S. each year. Eating foods con­t­a­m­i­nated with the lis­te­ria bac­te­ria is the pri­mary cause of infec­tion. It’s most com­monly found in unpas­teur­ized milk and dairy prod­ucts, soft cheeses and pre-cut deli meats. Pregnant women, the elderly and peo­ple with weak­ened immune sys­tems are most at risk.

Our study has shown that com­mon, nat­u­rally occur­ring fatty acids can switch off the spe­cific genes that make the lis­te­ria bac­terium dan­ger­ous,” Kallipolitis said. We tested omega‑3 fatty acids, and it took them about half an hour to neu­tral­ize the Listeria bac­te­ria.”


That’s promis­ing news for the devel­op­ment of new treat­ments. Antibiotics are cur­rently used to com­bat lis­te­rio­sis, but research shows the lis­te­ria bac­te­ria has become increas­ingly resis­tant to the med­ica­tion. This lat­est study indi­cates omega‑3 fatty acids can be used to nul­lify the effects of the bac­te­ria with­out destroy­ing it. If a bac­te­ri­a’s growth isn’t threat­ened, it does­n’t build resis­tance.

Bacteria can develop resis­tance to attacks, and we have many exam­ples of how this merely cre­ates new and even big­ger prob­lems for com­bat­ing them,” Kallipolitis said. It might be a bet­ter strat­egy to let them live and instead aim to neu­tral­ize their capac­ity to cause dis­ease.”

The researchers hope their dis­cov­ery will lead to bet­ter treat­ment options as lis­te­ria con­tin­ues to become more resis­tant to antibi­otics. Results of the study were pub­lished in the jour­nal Research in Microbiology.

This study is the lat­est in a series of numer­ous oth­ers that dis­play the health ben­e­fits of omega‑3 fatty acids. Other research indi­cates omega‑3 fatty acids reduce the risk of dia­betes, obe­sity, asthma and heart dis­ease. These fatty acids may also help bal­ance cho­les­terol lev­els, boost immu­nity, treat diges­tive dis­or­ders and reduce mus­cle, bone and joint pain.

The fol­low­ing foods are high sources of omega‑3 fatty acids.

- Mackerel
 — Salmon fish oil
 — Cod liver oil
 — Walnuts
 — Chia seeds
 — Herring
 — Salmon
 — Flaxseeds
 — Tuna
 — Sardines
 — Hemp seeds
 — Anchovies
 — Egg yolks
 — Olive oil

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