The health benefits of Oleocanthal

Since their discovery in the early 1990s, scientists have been excited about the potential health benefits of oleocanthal,[I] a completely natural phenolic compound that can only be found in pure, unrefined extra virgin olive oil (EVOO).

In this article, we describe what oleocanthal is, where it’s found and why scientists all agree that a diet rich in oleocanthal could help to improve your health and wellbeing.

What is oleocanthal?

Oleocanthal is a form of polyphenol. [II] It’s a natural organic compound that is on only found in pure, unrefined extra virgin olive oil. It is one of at least 30 different beneficial compounds that only appear in olive oil.

What are the health benefits of oleocanthal?

Oleocanthal is a powerful antioxidant, which can prevent DNA against oxidative damage.[III] Research has found that oleocanthal can help to reduce inflammation,[IV] acting similarly to the drug ibuprofen.[V] 

Chronic inflammation plays a crucial role in the development of many diseases,[VI]  including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, joint diseases and neurogenerative diseases.[VII] 

Scientists are exploring how oleocanthal works. Recent research has found that oleocanthal-rich extra virgin olive oil can induce damage in cancer cells.[VIII] In tests on mice, consumption of olive oil led to a reduction in both cancer incidence and mortality.

Researchers have also investigated the role of oleocanthal in tackling Alzheimer’s disease.[IX] In tests, oleocanthal was able to reduce the accumulation of β-amyloid (Aβ) and tau proteins in the brain, the accepted causes of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Scientists continue to explore the many ways that oleocanthal can improve health and protect against disease. While the exact mechanisms of its action are yet to be fully understood, the evidence that the Mediterranean diet rich in extra virgin olive oil is the key to a longer, healthier and more vibrant life.[X] 

Are the health benefits of oleocanthal proven?

The European Food Safety Authority has concluded that “olive oil polyphenols contribute to the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress” (Article 13 (3) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006).[xi] 

Only pure, unrefined extra virgin olive oil from unripe green olives contains the volume of oleocanthal that will benefit health.

Eoniea’s range of high-phenolic EVOO have been accredited to EU health claim, regulation 432/2012 that guarantees the phenolic quality of our collection has been scientifically proven to protect blood lipids and oxidative stress.

What is the optimum amount of oleocanthal to consume?

Oleocanthal found in extra virgin olive oil should be part of your everyday diet, the European Food Safety Agency says.[xii]

Studies have found that the Mediterranean diet contains around 25ml of EVOO a day. That’s roughly three and a half tablespoons of oil per day.

While EVOO is a healthy fat, it should be consumed in moderation. 

Can you find oleocanthal in all olive oils?

No. Oleocanthal is only present in extra virgin olive oils produced from unripe, early harvest green olives.

Depending on where the olives are grown and how they are processed, the level of oleocanthal can vary between extra virgin olive oils. Eoniea's extra virgin olive oil is independently verified to contain the highest levels of antioxidants and polyphenols in the world. 

When will it start to work?

If you consume extra virgin olive oil daily, you will begin to experience health benefits quickly, one Spanish study found.[XIII]

Participants consumed 25ml a day (the amount similarly consumed in Mediterranean countries). After three weeks, the results showed that the olive oil had increased HDL cholesterol levels (good cholesterol) and decreased oxidative damage of lipids, a high risk factor for the development of heart disease.

The best way to consume extra virgin olive oil is fresh from the bottle, used as a salad dressing or as a flavouring for pasta, for instance. If you use EVOO to cook with, a small proportion (approximately 16%) may be lost.[XIV]

 

[I] Parkinson, L. and Keast, R. (2014). Oleocanthal, a Phenolic Derived from Virgin Olive Oil: A Review of the Beneficial Effects on Inflammatory Disease. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 15(7), pp.12323-12334.

[II] Pandey, K. and Rizvi, S. (2009). Plant Polyphenols as Dietary Antioxidants in Human Health and Disease. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2(5), pp.270-278. 

[III] Machowetz A, e. (2019). Effect of olive oils on biomarkers of oxidative DNA stress in Northern and Southern Europeans. - PubMed - NCBI . [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17110467 [Accessed 3 Oct. 2019].

[IV] Arulselvan, P., Fard, M., Tan, W., Gothai, S., Fakurazi, S., Norhaizan, M. and Kumar, S. (2016). Role of Antioxidants and Natural Products in Inflammation. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2016, pp.1-15. 

[V] Lucas L, e. (2019). Molecular mechanisms of inflammation. Anti-inflammatory benefits of virgin olive oil and the phenolic compound oleocanthal. - PubMed - NCBI . [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21443487 [Accessed 3 Oct. 2019]. 

[VI] Segura-Carretero, A. and Curiel, J. (2018). Current Disease-Targets for Oleocanthal as Promising Natural Therapeutic Agent. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 19(10), p.2899. 

[VII] Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to polyphenols in olive and protection of LDL particles from oxidative damage (ID 1333, 1638, 1639, 1696, 2865), maintenance of normal blood HDL cholesterol concentrations (ID 1639), mainte. (2011). EFSA Journal, 9(4), p.2033. 

[VIII] Goren, L., Zhang, G., Kaushik, S., Breslin, P., Nancy Du, Y. and Foster, D. (2019). Oleocanthal and oleocanthal-rich olive oils induce lysosomal membrane permeabilization in cancer cells. 

[IX] Abuznait, A., Qosa, H., Busnena, B., El Sayed, K. and Kaddoumi, A. (2013). Olive-Oil-Derived Oleocanthal Enhances β-Amyloid Clearance as a Potential Neuroprotective Mechanism against Alzheimer’s Disease: In Vitro and in Vivo Studies. ACS Chemical Neuroscience, 4(6), pp.973-982. 

[X] Crous-Bou, M., Fung, T., Prescott, J., Julin, B., Du, M., Sun, Q., Rexrode, K., Hu, F. and De Vivo, I. (2014). Mediterranean diet and telomere length in Nurses' Health Study: population based cohort study. BMJ, 349(dec02 5), pp.g6674-g6674.

[XI] Eur-lex.europa.eu. (2019). [online] Available at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2006:404:0009:0025:EN:PDF [Accessed 3 Oct. 2019].

[XII] European Food Safety Authority. (2011). Polyphenols in olive related health claims. [online] Available at: https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/2033 [Accessed 3 Oct. 2019]. 

[XIII] Cordis.europa.eu. (2019). CORDIS | European Commission. [online] Available at: https://cordis.europa.eu/article/rcn/36007/en [Accessed 3 Oct. 2019].

[XIV] Cicerale S, e. (2019). Influence of heat on biological activity and concentration of oleocanthal--a natural anti-inflammatory agent in virgin olive oil. - PubMed - NCBI . [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19166297 [Accessed 3 Oct. 2019].