Saturday, February 9, 2013

Olive oil helps to keep the blood flowing

Olive oil is popular for cooking, as it is supposedly the most healthy when it comes to oils. While scientific evidence has shown beneficial effects of olive oil consumption, there is a lot of work left to be done to investigate whether the health claims are actually valid. A recent study conducted by the University of Messina revealed that a certain compound that is present in olive oil may help prevent damage to the organs caused by faulty blood supply.

Oleuropein aglycone is an interesting compound present in olive oil, and its health effects were investigated by the researchers in a group of mice. In an experiment, the mice had their blood flow artificially interrupted, resulting in a phenomenon known as ischemia. Basically, that means oxygen supply to the target organ is limited, resulting in organ damage. When the blood starts flowing again, it is called reperfusion, but this process is also associated with organ damage: ischemic tissue that gets reperfused receives additional damage from the sudden burst of oxygen. Taken together, this is called ischemia-reperfusion injury.

Mice model
Experiments set up by the University of Messina with an artificially constructed mouse model of ischemia-reperfusion were performed in order to find out whether providing the animals with the aforementioned compound found in olive oil can reduce damage. This appeared to be the case: the group of mice that was given oleuropein aglycone during the ischemia-reperfusion procedures had significantly less organ damage than the group that did not receive anything. In the tissue, the scientists saw that mice that were given the olive oil compound had markedly less activation of the immune system. Immune cells get recruited after tissue damage, resulting in inflammation. This is necessary to clean up the dead cells and other debris, but also results in more organ damage and dysfunction.

Ischemia-reperfusion can occur in all kinds of organs, depending on where the blood vessels are occluded. As organ damage can have far-reaching consequences, it is important to dampen the effects that ischemia and reperfusion have. That means that the situation in which the tissue is oxygen-deprived needs to be resolved quickly, but preferably without the damage that is associated with reperfusion. Treatment with oleuropein aglycone may play a role in achieving better outcomes of ischemia-reperfusion. Thought we already knew that olive oil had certain benefits, we now have a little bit more knowledge about which compound is responsible for its health claims. Further studies should investigate the actual therapeutic potential of oleuropein aglycone.

Ischemia-reperfusion injury in the kidney. This results in a complex interaction between immune cells including the activation of many chemicals that promote an immune response. (source)

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