Researchers from the University of Glasgow have developed a new way of measuring subtle changes in heart health over just a few weeks by looking at studying protein patterns in urine, a method known as proteomics.
The results of their study showed a marked change in the protein pattern of those who were given extra virgin olive oil and conventional olive oil associated with significant improvements in the biomarkers for coronary heart diseases (CAD), the most common heart disease.
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Researcher William Mullen said it was the first time proteomics was used from a nutritional perspective, and that one of the aims of the research was to show which foods were responsible for health benefits. This would provide more accurate labeling, he said, and allow informed consumer choice.
The research was not based on dietary habits, where one group takes a supplement and the other does not. Instead, the participants gave urine samples at the beginning of the study, another after three weeks, and a final one at the end of a six-week period.
The researchers chose 63 healthy volunteers from Glasgow between the ages of 18 and 75 who did not take olive oil regularly and analyzed urinary biomarkers useful for the detection of diseases before damage starts appearing and a scoring system in a double-blind study.
The volunteers were given 20ml of olive oil from Portugal as a daily supplement, but the oils were not heated nor used in cooking. There were no dietary restrictions; the oil was taken at any time during the day at a single intake.
At the end of the first three weeks, each urine sample was again analyzed and given a score for its protein characteristic, followed by a calculation of the average heart disease score. The results revealed that the average measure of coronary artery disease for both groups decreased.
The researchers said that after three weeks, those on low phenolic showed a decline in the score from of 0.3 while the group on the high phenolic group showed 0.2. Urine analyses at the end of the study did not reveal any significant changes in the two groups beyond those that were measured during the initial 3-week period.
The researchers concluded that although there was an improvement in scores for CAD, there was no significant contribution attributed to olive oil phenols. Any olive oil, it seemed — with high phenolic content or low — was beneficial and that the fatty acids were probably the main contributors to the observed effect.
Dr. Mullen said that identifying the early signatures of the disease before they become a problem would considerably reduce medical intervention.