`Potential for Parkinson’s Treatment from Olive Oil Waste


Potential for Parkinson’s Treatment from Olive Oil Waste

May. 24, 2012
Naomi Tupper

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Olive pomace (Photo: Jason Mali­nowski)

Olive pomace, the olive oil byprod­uct known in Spain as alpe­rujo, has recently been used to syn­the­size pow­er­ful antiox­i­dant mol­e­cules with a poten­tial appli­ca­tion in the treat­ment of Parkinson’s dis­ease.

Researchers from the Uni­ver­si­ties of Seville and Malaga in com­bi­na­tion with The Insti­tute of Sci­ence Tech­nol­ogy, Food and Nutri­tion and experts from the National Research Coun­cil (CSIC) have stud­ied the prepa­ra­tion of potent antiox­i­dants, nitro­cat­e­chols, from hydrox­y­ty­rosol found in alpe­rujo. The inves­ti­ga­tion focused specif­i­cally on the use of such prod­ucts in func­tional foods and in the sec­ondary appli­ca­tion of Parkinson’s treat­ment.

Hydrox­y­ty­rosol is found nat­u­rally in olive trees in the form of the com­plex mol­e­cule oleu­ropein. How­ever, dur­ing the oil extrac­tion process, the major­ity passes into waste prod­ucts, with only about one per­cent remain­ing in the olive oil. Although only present in minute quan­ti­ties, this small amount is enough to pre­serve olive oil in stor­age for up to a year, illus­trat­ing the potent antiox­i­dant effect of the sub­stance.

More than four mil­lion tons of alpe­rujo are pro­duced annu­ally in Andalu­sia, pro­vid­ing a huge poten­tal source for these antiox­i­dant mol­e­cules. How­ever, the extrac­tion process is com­pli­cated and needs fur­ther refine­ment to pin­point the spe­cific mol­e­cules required for the use in Parkinson’s treat­ment. Cur­rently, there are treat­ments for Parkinson’s dis­ease using nitro­cat­e­chols as inhibitors of an enzyme involved in the metab­o­lism of dopamine, the defi­ciency of which causes Parkinson’s.

The process used to extract nitro­cate­coles is com­plex, and involves stages car­ried out by var­i­ous teams in the par­tic­i­pat­ing organ­i­sa­tions. A purifi­ca­tion process patented by the Insti­tute of Fats is used to ren­der hydrox­y­ty­rosol found in the alpe­rujo fat sol­u­ble. This is then passed on to the Depart­ment of Organic Chem­istry and Phar­macy and the Depart­ment of Bio­chem­istry and Mol­e­c­u­lar Biol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of Seville for extrac­tion of nitro­cat­e­chols.


These are then passed on to the Insti­tute of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, Food and Nutri­tion, where their bio­log­i­cal activ­ity and poten­tial for appli­ca­tion in func­tional foods is stud­ied. They are also returned to the Insti­tute of fat, where they are added to var­i­ous oils and their activ­ity is com­pared with that of other antiox­i­dants. The Uni­ver­sity of Malaga also receives these processed com­pounds and is respon­si­ble for the eval­u­a­tion of the car­dio-pro­tec­tive and neuro-pro­tec­tive effects of the antiox­i­dants.

Although this research shows poten­tial and the inhibitory effect of nitro­cat­e­chols can be demon­strated and backed by a num­ber of stud­ies, a huge num­ber of fur­ther phar­ma­co­log­i­cal and clin­i­cal stud­ies would be required before any new drug could be released to the mar­ket. There­fore the use of this com­pound ther­a­peu­ti­cally is not likely to hap­pen in the very near future.

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