Biophenols in Extra Virgin Olive Oil Linked to Improved Outcomes in Obesity and Prediabetes

Research finds that consuming extra virgin olive oil rich in oleocanthal and oleacein also induces weight loss, a decrease in body mass index and basal glycemia.
By Daniel Dawson
Aug. 18, 2023 15:47 UTC

New research sug­gests that con­sum­ing extra vir­gin olive oil rich in oleo­can­thal and olea­cein can improve the health of peo­ple with obe­sity and pre­di­a­betes.

The study, pub­lished in Clinical Nutrition, found that con­sum­ing extra vir­gin olive oil rich in the bio­phe­nols for one month increased blood antiox­i­dant defenses and decreased para­me­ters asso­ci­ated with oxida­tive stress and inflam­ma­tion, under­ly­ing con­di­tions of both pre­di­a­betes and obe­sity.

In one month, we did­n’t expect to see a change in body weight or a change in glycemia, but these are very good indi­ca­tors of good clin­i­cal results for these types of patients (with obe­sity and pre­di­a­betes).- Francisco-Javier Bermúdez-Silva, senior researcher, Regional Hospital of Málaga

These ben­e­fits were not observed after the con­sump­tion of non-vir­gin olive oil – a mix­ture of refined olive oil and some vir­gin olive oil – over the same period.

Known as the APRIL (Aove in PRedIabetes) study, 91 par­tic­i­pants from Málaga, Spain, aged 40 to 65, with obe­sity and pre­di­a­betes were divided into two groups.

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One group of par­tic­i­pants con­sumed the bio­phe­nol-rich extra vir­gin olive oil, while the other group con­sumed the non-vir­gin olive oil for 30 days. After a washout period of 15 days, each group received the other type of oil and con­sumed it for another 30 days. Both oils were con­sumed cooked and raw, but the exact amount of con­sump­tion was not mea­sured.

The main find­ing was the changes in oxida­tive stress,” Francisco-Javier Bermúdez-Silva, the study’s cor­re­spond­ing author and senior researcher at the Regional Hospital of Málaga, told Olive Oil Times. We found a bet­ter antiox­i­dant pro­file and detected a decrease in some enzymes that are rel­e­vant for oxida­tive stress.”

Lipid per­ox­i­da­tion is a com­mon fea­ture of oxida­tive stress, and we found that these peo­ple had less oxi­da­tion of their lipids in the blood,” he added. This is in line with all the pre­vi­ous basic research that had been done with these polyphe­nols.”

In the study, the researchers wrote that three key com­pounds that reduce inflam­ma­tion increased after con­sum­ing the extra vir­gin olive oil, sug­gest­ing a higher capac­ity to mod­u­late sys­temic inflam­ma­tion when com­pared to olive oil.”

Oleocanthal and olea­cein could be medi­at­ing this lat­ter effect because their anti-inflam­ma­tory actions are well-doc­u­mented,” the researchers added.

Obesity is a con­di­tion where there is low-grade inflam­ma­tion and also oxida­tive stress. While there is still some dis­agree­ment, Bermúdez said there is a grow­ing con­sen­sus that oxida­tive stress pre­cedes the devel­op­ment of inflam­ma­tion.

This low-grade inflam­ma­tion is related to insulin resis­tance,” he said. Insulin resis­tance is related to fail­ing the beta cells to pro­duce enough insulin, and this leads to hyper­glycemia and later to a state in which the body can­not con­trol glu­cose lev­els in the blood.”

The oxida­tive stress and inflam­ma­tion are boost­ing all of these dis­eases,” Bermúdez added. If you con­sume these com­pounds in extra vir­gin olive oil, we hypoth­e­sized that you can improve your con­di­tion and pre­vent the devel­op­ment of dia­betes. To some extent, this is what we found.”

However, Bermúdez acknowl­edged sev­eral lim­i­ta­tions to the study that should be improved with fur­ther research, includ­ing the smaller-than-expected sam­ple size and rel­a­tively short time frame, which pre­vented researchers from fol­low­ing the clin­i­cal evo­lu­tion of the patients.

If we could fol­low these patients for longer, I guess that we would find less dia­betes, less obe­sity and bet­ter gen­eral health,” he said.

See Also:Researchers Review Benefits of Mediterranean Diet to Reduce Obesity

Mitigating the impacts of obe­sity and pre­di­a­betes is a ris­ing pri­or­ity for researchers glob­ally as rates of both dis­eases con­tinue to climb with no signs of let­ting up.

According to a recent report pub­lished by the World Obesity Atlas, no coun­try reported a decline in obe­sity preva­lence in 2023. The inter­na­tional non-gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion esti­mates that more than 4 bil­lion peo­ple will be over­weight or obese by 2035, com­pared with 2.6 bil­lion in 2020.


While pre­di­a­betes is noto­ri­ously hard to diag­nose due to a dearth of phys­i­cal symp­toms, sep­a­rate research from Johns Hopkins University con­cluded that the global bur­den of pre­di­a­betes is sub­stan­tial and grow­ing, with more than 1 bil­lion peo­ple expected to be pre­di­a­betic by 2040.

Along with decreases in oxida­tive stress, researchers also observed a sig­nif­i­cant decrease in body weight of about one kilo­gram and body mass index after one month of con­sum­ing extra vir­gin olive oil but not non-vir­gin olive oil. They also observed a par­al­lel improve­ment in fast­ing glu­cose.

However, the researchers added that they did not observe changes in insulin resis­tance, lipid pro­file, blood pres­sure or renal func­tion.

Taken together, these find­ings sug­gest that extra vir­gin olive oil was able to induce some clin­i­cal improve­ment in glu­cose han­dling, prob­a­bly related with body weight decrease and ame­lio­ra­tion of the inflam­ma­tory and oxida­tive sta­tus,” the researchers wrote.

This was really a sur­prise for us,” Bermúdez added. In one month, we did­n’t expect to see a change in body weight or a change in glycemia, but these are very good indi­ca­tors of good clin­i­cal results for these types of patients.”

Bermúdez added that he is work­ing on a new study to deter­mine how oleo­can­thal and olea­cein con­sump­tion may affect peo­ple with dia­betes.

We have a new project in mind in which we plan to per­form a sim­i­lar study, but on peo­ple with dia­betes,” he con­cluded. Our study has shed some light on the pre­ven­tion side of this com­pound. Now what we want to do is to per­form a more ther­a­peu­tic study by see­ing what is hap­pen­ing in peo­ple who are already dia­betic.”


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