Over the past few decades, we have learned a lot about the benefits of olive oil. The Mediterranean Diet, which features high olive oil consumption as one of its main characteristics, shot to prominence in the 1990s as a means of improving cardiovascular disease. This was seen paradoxical at the time, as high levels of fat intake had tradtionally been seen to worsen these types of conditions by mainstream, western nutrition. Olive oil has been subject to a high level of study in order to elucidate the causes of these beneficial effects ever since.
The Mediterranean diet was borne out of a study that begun in the 1940s and carried on over fifty years. Called the Seven Countries Study, it correlated lifestyle factors, such as diet, incidence of smoking, and level of physical activity, with the risks for coronary heart disease and stroke.
This study proved to be hugely illuminating and controversial, and a large number of other studies have followed the same methodology. It has emerged through similar research that the incidence of osterporosis and related fractures is lower In areas where a Mediterranean Diet is eaten.
Epidemiological research is important in identifying trends that warrant further investigation, and this is what occurred. A number of researchers have now undertaken research into the mechanisms by which olive oil may protect the bones from age related degeneration.
A group of Spanish researchers has gathered together and reviewed these findings and drawn a number of overall conclusions. Firstly they have confidently stated that the original research was correct - that olive oil is active in preventing bone loss. Rather than the fatty acids, which are responsible for much of the cardioprotective effect of this superfood, it has been shown that the phenols present in olive oil have the majority of the beneficial effect on bones. These phenols have been demonstrated to encourage the maturation and proliferative capacity of osteoblasts, which are the cells responsible for producing new bone. In addition, olive phenols are thought to play a role in attracting calcium ions toward the bone. Phenols are present in high levels in extra virgin olive oil, and in even higher levels in the fruit of the olive.
Olive phenols are abundant in olive leaf extract, and this research has shown us an exciting new benefit for an ingredient that already has a lot us uses. With powerful antioxidant, antiinflammatory and metabolism boosting qualities, olive leaf extract is present in a diverse range of supplements, from immune boosters and superfood supplements, to pre-workouts and weight loss formulations. With bone support supplements predicted to become popular in the next few years, manufacturers may have found their new star ingredient.
García-Martínez O, Rivas A, Ramos-Torrecillas J, De Luna-Bertos E, Ruiz C. The effect of olive oil on osteoporosis prevention. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2014 Jun 30:1-7.