Olive Crazy: All About Olives and Olive Oil
Oct 112011
 

For the last few years the European Union (EU) has been researching food-related health and nutrition claims in preparation for a major claims and labelling legislation overhaul. The reasons are easy – regulations go back as far as 1978 in some cases, there are a lot of new foods EU consumers are able to purchase, and without updated legislation there is no way to begin to protect consumers. Here is a link to the Citizen’s Summary describing the European Commission’s reasoning.

I looked over the EU’s current list of authorized and rejected health and nutrition claims. Mostly vitamins and minerals are on the approved list, and some obviously absurd food product claims are on the rejected list. Times and products have indeed changed and even though the claims and labelling changes are burdensome, I think they are necessary. My Granny would have said, “it’s the devil you must live with.”

The European Commission is now in the draft phase of a final ‘European Union Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation’. The draft of authorized and banned claims should be ready by the end of the year. The draft will combine two directives into a single piece of legislation. The two directives are: Labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs and nutrition labelling for foodstuffs.

Now we come to the part that involves olive products and olive oil health claims (Article 13). The organization that evaluated the research into olive and olive oil claims is the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). In April 2011 they published their decisions.

The first is the Opinion of the Scientific Committee/Scientific Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) on the scientific substantiation of health claims on the food, olive oil as the claims relate to maintenance of normal blood LDL-cholesterol concentrations, maintenance of normal (fasting) blood concentrations of triglycerides, maintenance of normal blood HDL cholesterol concentrations and maintenance of normal blood glucose concentrations. Here are the claims and the decisions:

Maintenance of normal blood LDL-cholesterol concentrations

The claimed effects are “health of the cardiovascular system, general population” and “improves blood lipid profile”. The target population is assumed to be the general population. In the context of the proposed wording and clarifications provided by Member States, the Panel assumes that the claimed effects refer to the maintenance of normal LDL-cholesterol concentrations. The Panel considers that maintenance of normal blood LDL-cholesterol concentrations is a beneficial physiological effect.

In weighing the evidence, the Panel took into account that the evidence provided did not establish that olive oil consumption had an effect on blood LDL cholesterol concentrations beyond what could be expected from the fatty acid composition of olive oil, and that the only study which assessed the effects of olive oil while controlling for its fatty acid composition did not find any significant changes in LDL cholesterol concentrations when comparing olive oils with high, moderate and low polyphenol content.

On the basis of the data presented, the Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of olive oil and maintenance of normal blood LDL cholesterol concentrations beyond what could be expected from the fatty acid composition of olive oil.

A claim on the replacement of mixtures of SFAs with cis-MUFAs and/or cis-PUFAs in foods or diets and maintenance of normal blood LDL-cholesterol concentrations has been assessed with a favourable outcome. A claim on linoleic acid and maintenance of normal blood cholesterol concentrations has also already been assessed with a favourable outcome.

Maintenance of normal (fasting) blood concentrations of triglycerides

The claimed effects are “health of the cardiovascular system, general population” and “improves blood lipid profile”. The target population is assumed to be the general population. In the context of the proposed wording and clarifications provided by Member States, the Panel assumes that the claimed effects refer to the maintenance of normal (fasting) blood concentrations of triglycerides. The Panel considers that maintenance of normal (fasting) blood concentrations of triglycerides may be a beneficial physiological effect.

When carbohydrates are replaced with fats, fasting triglyceride levels are reduced, but there is no difference between the effects of different fatty acid classes. In clinical trials, no differences have been observed between olive oil, rapeseed oil, corn oil and sunflower oil with respect to their effects on blood concentrations of triglycerides.

On the basis of the data presented, the Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of olive oil and maintenance of normal (fasting) blood concentrations of triglycerides.

Maintenance of normal blood HDL-cholesterol concentrations

The claimed effects are “health of the cardiovascular system, general population” and “improves blood lipid profile”. The target population is assumed to be the general population. In the context of the proposed wording and clarifications provided by Member States, the Panel assumes that the claimed effects refer to the maintenance of normal HDL-cholesterol concentrations. The Panel considers that maintenance of normal HDL-cholesterol concentrations (without increasing LDL-cholesterol concentrations) is a beneficial physiological effect.

In weighing the evidence, the Panel took into account that based on its fatty acid composition olive oil is not expected to have an effect on HDL cholesterol concentrations, that a linear dose-response effect of olive oil polyphenols on HDL-cholesterol concentrations was observed in one study only, and that no evidence on a plausible mechanism by which olive oil polyphenols could exert an effect on HDL cholesterol concentrations has been provided.

On the basis of the data presented, the Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of olive oil and maintenance of normal HDL-cholesterol concentrations.

Maintenance of normal blood glucose concentrations

The claimed effect is “permet de réguler le glucoses dans le sang”. The target population is assumed to be the general population. The Panel assumes that the claimed effect refers to the maintenance of normal blood glucose concentrations. The Panel considers that long-term maintenance of normal blood glucose concentrations is a beneficial physiological effect.

No references were provided from which conclusions could be drawn for the scientific substantiation of the claimed effect.

On the basis of the data presented, the Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of olive oil and maintenance of normal blood glucose concentrations.

The second is the Opinion of the Scientific Committee/Scientific Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) on the scientific substantiation of of health claims related to polyphenols in the olive as the claims relate to protection of LDL particles from oxidative damage, maintenance of normal blood HDL-cholesterol concentrations, maintenance of normal blood pressure, “anti-inflammatory properties”, “contributes to the upper respiratory tract health”, “can help to maintain a normal function of gastrointestinal tract”, and “contributes to body defences against external agents”. Here are the claims and the decisions:

Protection of LDL particles from oxidative damage

The claimed effects are “reduces oxidative stress”, “antioxidant properties”, “lipid metabolism”, “antioxidant activity, they protect body cells and LDL from oxidative damages”, and “antioxidant properties”. The target population is assumed to be the general population. In the context of the proposed wordings, the Panel assumes that the claimed effects refer to the protection of low density lipoproteins (LDL) particles from oxidative damage. The Panel considers that protection of LDL particles from oxidative damage may be a beneficial physiological effect.

In weighing the evidence, the Panel took into account that a well conducted and powered study, and two smaller-scale studies, showed a dose-dependent and significant effect of olive oil polyphenol consumption (for three weeks) on appropriate markers of LDL peroxidation (oxLDL), that these results were supported by one short-term and one acute study, and by supportive markers of LDL peroxidation (conjugated dienes, ex vivo resistance of LDL to oxidation) going in the same direction, and that evidence for a biologically plausible mechanism by which olive oil polyphenols could exert the claimed effect has been provided.

On the basis of the data presented, the Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has been established between the consumption of olive oil polyphenols (standardised by the content of hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives) and protection of LDL particles from oxidative damage.

The Panel considers that in order to bear the claim, 5 mg of hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives (e.g. oleuropein complex and tyrosol) in olive oil should be consumed daily. These amounts, if provided by moderate amounts of olive oil, can be easily consumed in the context of a balanced diet. The concentrations in some olive oils may be too low to allow the consumption of this amount of polyphenols in the context of a balanced diet. The target population is the general population.

Maintenance of normal blood HDL-cholesterol concentrations

The claimed effect is “lipid metabolism”. The target population is assumed to be the general population. In the context of the proposed wording, the Panel assumes that the claimed effect refers to the maintenance of normal blood HDL-cholesterol concentrations. The Panel considers that maintenance of normal blood HDL-cholesterol concentrations (without increasing LDL-cholesterol concentrations) is a beneficial physiological effect.

In weighing the evidence, the Panel took into account that the results from the studies provided are inconsistent, and that no evidence for a biologically plausible mechanism by which olive oil polyphenols could exert the claimed effect has been provided.

On the basis of the data presented, the Panel concludes that the evidence provided is insufficient to establish a cause and effect relationship between the consumption olive oil polyphenols (standardised by the content of hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives) and maintenance of normal blood HDL cholesterol concentrations.

Maintenance of normal blood pressure

The claimed effect is “contributes to the maintenance of a normal blood pressure”. The target population is assumed to be the general population. The Panel considers that maintenance of normal blood pressure is a beneficial physiological effect.

No human studies were provided from which conclusions could be drawn for the scientific substantiation of the claimed effect.

On the basis of the data presented, the Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of polyphenols in olive (olive fruit, olive mill waste waters or olive oil, Olea europaea L. extract and leaf) standardised by the content of hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives (e.g. oleuropein complex) and maintenance of normal blood pressure.

“Anti-inflammatory properties”

The claimed effect is “a potent source of olive biophenols with anti-inflammatory properties”. The target population is assumed to be the general population. In the context of the proposed wordings, the Panel considers that the claim refers to diseases such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, in which a reduction of inflammation would be a therapeutic target for the treatment of the disease.

The Panel considers that the reduction of inflammation in the context of diseases such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis is a therapeutic target for the treatment of the disease, and does not comply with the criteria laid down in Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006.

“Contributes to the upper respiratory tract health”

The claimed effect is “contributes to the upper respiratory tract health”. The target population is assumed to be the general population.

The claimed effect is not sufficiently defined and no clarification has been provided by Member States. The Panel notes that different health outcomes were mentioned in the information provided, and that it was not possible to establish which specific effect is the target for the claim.

The Panel concludes that the claimed effect is general and non-specific, and does not refer to any specific health claim as required by Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006.

“Can help to maintain a normal function of gastrointestinal tract”

The claimed effect is “can help to maintain a normal function of gastrointestinal tract”. The target population is assumed to be the general population.

The claimed effect is not sufficiently defined and no clarification has been provided by Member States. The Panel notes that different health outcomes were mentioned in the information provided, and that it was not possible to establish which specific effect is the target for the claim.

The Panel concludes that the claimed effect is general and non-specific, and does not refer to any specific health claim as required by Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006.

“Contributes to body defences against external agents”

The claimed effect is “contributes to body defences against external agents”. The target population is assumed to be the general population.

The claimed effect is not sufficiently defined and no clarification has been provided by Member States. The Panel notes that different health outcomes were mentioned in the information provided, and that it was not possible to establish which specific effect is the target for the claim.

The Panel concludes that the claimed effect is general and non-specific, and does not refer to any specific health claim as required by Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006.

May the sun shine through your branches

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