Jul 052011

Every day there is some new article about the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil and olive oil in general. What the heck are we supposed to believe and where is all the research? I do what my Mom taught me – “take everything with a grain of salt” and “read everything”. That’s pretty good advice even though a daunting task when confronted with a world of information that we sometimes must take at it’s word, since we simply can’t “read everything”.

As for where is the research, I find studies and commentary in many of the medical and scientific journals and from the blogs written by scientists that read and help process the specialized lingo for us lay folk. In an attempt to do what Mom advised, here’s a little reading I’ve been doing.

This past week I read Australian scientist, Dr. Richard Gawel‘s, latest blog article “This weeks pick of Extra virgin olive oil research“. At the end of his article he talks about a research study from the “British Journal of Nutrition” entitled “Absorption and metabolism of olive oil secoiridoids in the small intestine”. Now, I did not read the study since I’m not in the position to shell out $45.00 US for this worthy document. I contented myself with the abstract and dictionary to look up all the words I did not know, which was about half of them. Then I further contented myself with Richard Gawel’s assessment. Here are the results of what I gathered from all my reading.

Mr. Olive Crazy, the Human Reactor

I asked Mr. Olive Crazy to pose for this picture to help me demonstrate what I learned from both the abstract and Richard Gawel.

Our bodies act as chemical reactors that break down stuff we eat. In the stuff we eat are good things, like iridoids. Iridoids (secoiridoids/polyphenols)  are in plants and some animals, and act, in our bodies, as defense against microorganisms. There are also bad things that make there way through our reactor, but they are not featured in todays topic.

What this study found out is that the polyphenols (iridoids) in the extra virgin olive oil you ate for dinner broke down to phenolics that were indistinguishable from the phenolics of some other part of your dinner, and in some cases were then enzymatically reduced losing a couple of electrons and then binding to a certain sugar molecule (since your little tummy reactor just bound your evoo with a sugar I guess that means you already had dessert).

Apparently the big deal is, that all these changes in the polyphenols (iridoids) were not properly followed through our “reactors” in previous studies, so we don’t really know the extent of the the health benefits of the polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil.

Does that mean I am going to stop being Olive Crazy? No chance. But I am going to talk to Mr. Olive Crazy about slimming his “reactor” or maybe take some art lessons.

May the sun shine through your branches.