A compound found in extra virgin olive oil reduces symptoms of insulin resistance and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – at least in mice.
The mouse study, conducted by researchers led by Rodrigo Valenzuela of the University of Chile, focused on hydroxytyrosol, a polyphenol found in extra virgin olive oil.
In an elegant experiment, Valenzuela’s team set up four small cohorts of mice. Over a 12-week period, two groups were put on a diet comprising 60% fat, with the others enjoying a “normal” 10% fat regime. One group from each pair was also given daily oral doses of hydroxytyrosol.
The high-fat cohort without the supplement was found to have decreased levels of enzymes in the liver, which, in turn, negatively affected the production of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids – critical for vascular health.
The cohort enjoying the added hydroxytyrosol, however, showed enzyme production on a par with the mice on the lower-fat diets.
The results illustrate at least a partial mechanism to explain why olive oil appears to have a positive and protective effect on health. They also suggest that it might also ameliorate the adverse health consequences of high fat diets.
“However, caution should be taken when extrapolating these findings to human consumption of hydroxytyrosol as our experiments have been conducted with mice in a controlled environment,” warns Valenzuela.
Andrew Masterson is a former editor of Cosmos.
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.