Scientists have long suspected that there was something inherently good about all those things which make up the "mediterranean diet." The olive is one of the most important ingredients of that diet.
Last year, French researchers looked at the effects of different doses of oleuropein, an olive polyphenol, on inflammation-induced bone loss (osteopenia) in rats and found that bone loss was reduced as a result of supplementation (that study appeared in Clinical Nutrition).
Now, new studies show that supplementation with an olive extract actually decreased pain and inflammation as well as improved the quality of life of people who were suffering from osteoarthritis.
This study, appearing in the August issue of the journal Nutrition Research, was conducted by researchers from Arizona State University and a California-based company (CreAgri). The scientists report that the supplements also had the added benefit of decreasing homocysteine levels, a marker of improved cardiovascular health in these same patients.
The new double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study recruited 90 people, ranging in age from 55 to 75, to receive either 400 mg of freeze-dried olive extract per day or a placebo for eight weeks. The scientists report that the subjects receiving the olive extract had significantly lower homocysteine levels than the placebo group.
This is good news, because high homocysteine levels in patients has been associated with higher rates of mortality from cardiovascular events. Plus, C-reactive protein (CRP) levels decreased by about 50 per cent as a result of olive extract supplementation, while CRP levels in the placebo group increased. CRP is a well-known marker for inflammation. With the onset of type-2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease, CRP goes up.
With an aging population and problems with obesity, there will no doubt be more emphasis on olive extract products in the near future.