Olive oil a monounsaturated fat, is the main source of fat in the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet), one of the world’s healthiest dietary patterns. Consumption of olive oil and following a MedDiet have been studied extensively in hundreds of studies and shown to provide benefits for many chronic health conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disorders and the metabolic syndrome.
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While these health benefits are well established, science has not had the tools to identify the mechanisms behind such positive responses. Now, a breakthrough in modern medicine and nutrition called omics technologies — transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, interactomics and fluxomics — provides a way to characterize the molecular markers and mechanisms behind the health benefits of nutraceuticals such as olive oil and the MedDiet pattern.

A recent review published in Biofactors, reveals that the early evidence coming out of omics technologies confirms that olive oil and the MedDiet do in fact exert effects on molecules in the body that alter human gene expression and metabolic function.

Some of the specific effects of olive oil bisphenols on disease mechanisms include: “effects on receptors, signaling kinases and transcription factors associated with cellular stress and inflammation, lipoprotein metabolism and damage, and endothelial function and more in general with pathways responsible for cell cycle regulation and metabolism that include mitochondrial function and signaling, ER stress, DNA damage, and the response to growth factors, cytokines and hormones.”

Omics data also show that olive oil phenols have a balancing function (homeostatic) on the gastrointestinal tract – stomach, liver, and pancreas – as well as influencing inflammatory and vascular cells at the cellular, systemic level of the body. The data confirms the powerful role olive oil plays in human gene expression, as anti-inflammatory and immune modulating agent and in influencing antioxidant and detoxification genes in the body.

This really is a breakthrough in nutritional science and medicine, because now, what can be understood by these new omic technologies, is the bioactive targets that specific components of olive oil have on the body.

For instance, before this new science, research has clearly shown olive oil has health benefits for cardiovascular disease, but no known mechanisms. With this new science, it can now be seen that olive oil influences genes such as MCP, IL7R, IFNc, TNFa, and the b-adrenergic receptor B2. MCP1, for example, “is a crucial chemokine responsible for the recruitment of monocytes to inflammatory lesions in the vasculature.”

This provides powerful information to scientists about how foods influence diseases, both in their development, progression and healing. This new science also provides another level of experimental validation and promise for revealing ways certain nutritional foods such as olive oil may be used in clinical applications for even greater benefits.

The world of omics technologies is still in its infancy, therefore there is still much to be discovered. However, the authors suggest that in the near future, omics technology will make it possible to predict and assess gene response in relation to nutraceuticals such as olive oil, which could lead the way to the provision of personalized nutrition and medicine that could reverse disease.


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