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An International Society for Oleocanthal

Jun. 11, 2015
Athan Gadanidis

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On May 30 – 31 on the island of Zakynthos in Greece a group of inter­na­tional olive oil experts from the world of sci­ence, acad­e­mia, gas­tron­omy and media gath­ered for a con­fer­ence to estab­lish the non-profit Oleocanthal International Society (OIS).

OIS is the brain­child of retired physi­cian Jose Antonio Amerigo from Spain who has ded­i­cated his time to pro­mot­ing pre­ven­ta­tive med­i­cine through nutri­tion as the best way to cure” dis­ease.

My ini­tial moti­va­tion was to pro­mote the health ben­e­fits derived from Picual and Cornicabra, the two main vari­etals of olive trees found in the Jaén and La Mancha areas. They are both very rich in health-pro­mot­ing phe­no­lic com­pounds such as oleo­can­thal,” Amerigo said.

Last year I cre­ated the Oleocanthal Society of Andalusia for this pur­pose and invited Gary Beauchamp to our inau­gural event where we met for the first time,” Amerigo con­tin­ued. OIS, how­ever, is a dis­tinct and sep­a­rate inter­na­tional mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary soci­ety with mem­bers with diverse inter­ests in the field of research, gas­tron­omy, and media. Our goal is to expand inter­dis­ci­pli­nary col­lab­o­ra­tion and infor­ma­tion exchange in the field of olive research. It is vital that we encour­age the proper use of high phe­no­lic olive prod­ucts in our daily diet. OIS mis­sion is to encour­age sci­en­tific research and dis­sem­i­nate the results to the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity while mak­ing the health pro­mot­ing aspects acces­si­ble to the gen­eral pub­lic, via a web­site, press releases, spe­cial events, videos and pod­casts.”

Founding mem­bers of OIS are from Spain, Greece, and the United States. Experts from Italy, Australia, France, Tunisia, Croatia, and Portugal have expressed inter­est in join­ing, and it is expected the OIS will expand rapidly to include rep­re­sen­ta­tives from those coun­tries and oth­ers.

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Prokopios Magiatis and Eleni Melliou were invited to become mem­bers due to their exten­sive back­ground in olive oil research and their dis­cov­ery of the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), method of accu­rately mea­sur­ing indi­vid­ual phe­no­lic com­pounds. I asked Magiatis why Zakynthos was cho­sen for this event: We decided to con­duct our first meet­ing to estab­lish OIS in Zakynthos Island sit­u­ated in the Ionian Sea in Greece as an acknowl­edge­ment of the vibrant his­tory of the olive tree and its cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance to the ancient Hellenic cul­ture and Mediterranean civ­i­liza­tions. We also dis­cov­ered some very high phe­no­lic olive oils here in the Ionian islands of Zakynthos and Corfu. We are very happy to col­lab­o­rate with such a diverse group of sci­en­tists and experts to fur­ther our research and enhance our abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate our find­ings to the pub­lic.”

Paul Breslin recently made head­lines with his suc­cess in using oleo­can­thal to kill can­cer cells in a Petri dish. He flew in from Boston to par­tic­i­pate because he sees OIS as a very pos­i­tive devel­op­ment. I hope the OIS will suc­ceed in access­ing more funds that are needed to help us con­tinue to study the spe­cific health ben­e­fits of oleo­can­thal and other com­pounds found in EVOO. All indi­ca­tions are very pos­i­tive for the over­all health ben­e­fits of con­sum­ing olive oil. The spe­cific con­tri­bu­tion of each phe­no­lic com­pound found in EVOO in pre­vent­ing or even heal­ing dis­ease requires a great deal more research. At present, we have dis­cov­ered that oleo­can­thal has anti-inflam­ma­tory prop­er­ties, inter­feres with amy­loid form­ing Alzheimer’s plaques and can kill cer­tain can­cer­ous cells in a petri dish with­out harm­ing healthy cells. Beyond the head­lines and the enthu­si­asm this research has gen­er­ated we need to con­duct ani­mal stud­ies and even­tu­ally human tri­als. This requires research funds that we do not have right now. This is why I have decided to be a part of OIS.” Breslin is a pro­fes­sor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, Rutgers University and a mem­ber of the Monell Chemical Senses Center.

Gary Beauchamp, the man who dis­cov­ered the anti-inflam­ma­tory prop­er­ties of oleo­can­thal, is another enthu­si­as­tic mem­ber of OIS and he gave an overview of why OIS is a sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ment: Ever since our dis­cov­ery of the anti-inflam­ma­tory prop­er­ties of oleo­can­thal ten years ago, research has been slow to exam­ine its spe­cific health ben­e­fits, par­tic­u­larly using in vivo meth­ods with ani­mal mod­els and human clin­i­cal tri­als. We also have not been able to con­duct proper uti­liza­tion and tox­i­col­ogy stud­ies using pure com­pounds. Bottlenecks have been a lack of suf­fi­cient mate­r­ial to con­duct these stud­ies, val­i­dated meth­ods to mea­sure oleo­can­thal and related com­pounds in oils and other olive con­stituents, and suf­fi­cient funds to make this needed research pos­si­ble. With this new soci­ety, we will now be able to build on recent excit­ing progress in these areas. My hope is that inter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tion, now dri­ven strongly by OIS, will pro­mote pro­grams that will doc­u­ment the pos­i­tive phys­i­o­log­i­cal effects of oleo­can­thal and related com­pounds thereby enhanc­ing human health.” Beauchamp, is a Distinguished Member and Emeritus direc­tor and pres­i­dent of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia

For Li Li Ji, the direc­tor of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota and a pro­fes­sor and direc­tor for the Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene and Exercise Science, the inter­est in becom­ing a mem­ber of OIS stems from his exten­sive research on how proper diet and exer­cise can pre­vent many dis­eases. We are also look­ing at cer­tain food’s poten­tial to alle­vi­ate symp­toms or even cure dis­ease. Oleocanthal is one of many such com­pounds found in high-qual­ity olive oil.” He added.

The aspect of gas­tron­omy is also another key ele­ment in the OIS plat­form and another way of com­mu­ni­cat­ing the ben­e­fits of phe­no­lic com­pounds found in EVOO. Chef Danny Garcia Peinado, from Benalmádena, Málaga is excited to be on the cut­ting edge olive research and looks for­ward to trans­lat­ing the sci­ence into spe­cially designed recipes: I have a pas­sion for mak­ing recipes using extra vir­gin olive oil with com­plex fla­vor char­ac­ter­is­tics. I exper­i­ment con­stantly with fla­vor com­bi­na­tions. I am eager to learn more about the spe­cific health pro­mot­ing com­pounds like oleo­can­thal found in extra vir­gin olive oil and cre­ate spe­cific recipes for these unique high phe­no­lic olive oils.”

This reporter was asked to attend this event in Zakynthos and I accepted think­ing it would be a mini hol­i­day. I had not vis­ited the island in 40 years and after attend­ing the con­fer­ence I was expect­ing to have free time to enjoy the famous beaches of Zakynthos. To my sur­prise I was invited to become a mem­ber of OIS which meant I spent most of my time in meet­ings over pol­icy and plan­ning. All mem­bers of OIS par­tic­i­pate on a vol­un­teer basis. However mem­ber­ship does offer me more access to lead­ing fig­ures in olive research and I hope to gain more knowl­edge and under­stand­ing on the com­plex rela­tion­ship between olive oil and health and be in a bet­ter posi­tion to write about it. I will be report­ing this unfold­ing story from the inside.

My hol­i­day plans did not mate­ri­al­ize as I expected but we did have a won­der­ful lunch spon­sored by ECO Zakynthos pre­pared by owner Dimitri Eleftherios and his fam­ily and a very mem­o­rable late din­ner among the olive trees at the Eleon Grand Resort and Spa.

Terens Quick, the deputy Minister of State, was able to attend part of the din­ner hav­ing missed the con­fer­ence ear­lier in the day due to press­ing gov­ern­ment busi­ness. He expressed his sup­port for OIS and was pleased to see so many world-renowned sci­en­tists and experts present and will­ing to donate their valu­able time to expand­ing research and aware­ness on the health ben­e­fits of con­sum­ing EVOO. The OIS con­fer­ence choice of loca­tion in Zakynthos was espe­cially appre­ci­ated dur­ing this cru­cial time for the Greek econ­omy.

OIS wished to thank the spon­sors who sup­ported the con­fer­ence: The Region of Ionian Islands; the regional gov­er­nor Theodoros Galiatsatos and the vice gov­er­nor, Eleutherios Niotopoulos; Local politi­cian Giorgis Sigouros; the pres­i­dent of the Agricultural Cooperatives Union of Zakynthos, Antonis Antiohos; ECO Zakynthos; Dimitris Therianos owner of Therianos organic EVOO; Spyros Dafnis, owner of The Governor; Hotel Zante Maris and Eleon Grand Resort and Spa.

The next meet­ing of the Oleocanthal International Society is sched­uled to be held in October in Spain.


The 13 found­ing mem­bers of the Oleocanthal International Society

Jose Antonio Amerigo (Spain)
Paul Breslin (USA)
Gary Beauchamp (USA)
Prokopios Magiatis (Greece)
Eleni Melliou (Greece)
Manuel Brenes Balbuena (Spain)
Li Li Ji (USA)
Feliciano Priego Capote (Spain)
Maria Dolores Luque de Castro (Spain)
Danny Garcia Peinado (Spain)
Maureen Ann O’Leary (USA)
Clara Isabel Villanueva Garcia (Spain)
Athan Gadanidis (Greece)

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