According to new research published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, olive oil may have yet another biological benefit in the treatment of disease. This time it appears that there is a role for olive oil derived compounds in the prevention of intestinal ischemia and reperfusion associated organ damage.

The study, which was carried out in animal models, suggested that the olive oil component oleuropein aglycone, which is an important polyphenol, could significantly reduce damage caused by intestinal ischemia. This condition, which occurs in humans due to narrowing or blockage of blood vessels that supply the digestive system, results in restricted blood supply to the organs. The condition can be incredibly painful and in the long term cause problems such as malnutrition, severe weight loss and permanent intestinal damage. Not only does the condition cause damage in its own right, but the resulting reperfusion injury, which takes place when blood supply is returned to the organ, can also cause a vast amount of tissue damage.

In laboratory conditions, mice were used to test the effectiveness of oleuropein aglycone in treating intestinal ischemia/reperfusion injury. Groups of mice were subjected to surgically induced intestinal ischemia, with one group treated with the olive oil derived compound after induction. It was found that mice treated with oleuropein aglycone had lower levels of intestinal injury and inflammation than those who did not receive the treatment but which were also subjected to procedures to cause intestinal ischemia. The results suggest that the compound plays a part in preventing secondary organ injury caused by the condition.

While further research is needed into whether this treatment is suitable for humans with intestinal ischemia, which may be caused by a variety of conditions such as fatty build ups in the blood vessels or blood clots, it shows promise for the substance in the use of treating inflammation associated disease. It is hoped that eventually this type of therapy could lead to benefits for patients with spinal cord injury and arthritis as well as intestinal ischemia and reperfusion.

Extra virgin olive oil is well known for its high content of phenolic compounds that have potent anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and antioxidant effects. Previous human and animal based studies have shown promising results for a number of these compounds in the treatment of various diseases and conditions associated with inflammation, in particular the compound oleocanthal, which is thought to have similar anti-inflammatory properties to ibuprofen.

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