Science strengthens for olive extract’s bone benefits

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Bone health Van der saag Osteoporosis Olive leaf

The potential bone health benefits of the olive polyphenol, oleuropein, are related to its ability to stimulate cells responsible for bone formation, says a new study that explains the mode of action of the compound.

The study, published in Osteoporosis International, ​used BioActor’s BonOlive ingredient. The Ghent, Belgium-based company are licensees of the worldwide rights to patents on using olive polyphenols for osteoporosis prevention in food, supplements and herbal medicines.

Osteoporosis is characterised by low bone mass, which leads to an increase risk of fractures, especially the hips, spine and wrists. An estimated 75 million people suffer from it in Europe, the US and Japan.

Women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men and the authors of this study explained that previous research indicates that diabetes decreases bone turnover that is associated with impaired osteoblastic maturation and function.

According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, the total direct cost of osteoporotic fractures in Europe is €31.7bn, and this is expected to increase to €76.7 billion in 2050, so boosting bone density in high-risk and post-menopausal women could ease the burden of osteoporosis.

The research was welcomed by Hans van der Saag, managing director of BioActor, who said: “BonOlive presents a unique opportunity to expand the functionality of bone health products. It now has been shown that it has a unique mode of action by specifically stimulating the number of and activity of bone producing cells.”

Laying the foundations

Dr Veronique Coxam at the Clermont Ferrand unit of France's INRA (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique) has led developments of oleuropein for bone health (BioActor licence INRA’s patents). Dr Coxam’s work was inspired by epidemiological evidence showing that people who ate a traditional Mediterranean diet were less likely to have osteoporosis.

Their early work revealed that both oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol had an impact on inflammation in bones. These findings have since been confirmed in animal studies (for example, Clinical Nutrition​, 2006, Vol. 25, pp. 859-868).

The new study, performed by scientists at the University of Cordoba, Spain, studied the effects of a range of oleuropein concentrations on the formation of osteoblasts in stems cells from human bone marrow. Osteoblasts are cells responsible for bone formation, while osteoclasts are cells which break down bone, leading to resorption and weakening.

When oleuropein in the culture media was included in the culture media, the researchers noted an “increase in osteoblast differentiation and a decrease in adipocyte differentiation”​.

Increases in the expression of certain genes were also observed related to production of osteoblasts.

“Our data suggest that oleuropein, highly abundant in olive tree products included in the traditional Mediterranean diet, could prevent age-related bone loss and osteoporosis,”​ concluded the researchers.


Van der Saag confirmed that the olive leaf extract is available as a powder and can be used in supplements and some functional foods, depending on the food matrix (olive leaf extracts have an inherent bitter taste).

The ingredient is available globally, with strong sales in Asia and South America, he said. Dietary supplements for the US market are expected to launch “early next year”​, he added. Despite “interest from fairly big food companies”​ the company will focus initially on supplements in the US, added van der Saag.

Source: Osteoporosis International
​Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1007/s00198-010-1270-x
“Oleuropein enhances osteoblastogenesis and inhibits adipogenesis: the effect on differentiation in stem cells derived from bone marrow”
Authors: R. Santiago-Mora, A. Casado-Diaz, M. D. De Castro and J. M. Quesada-Gomez

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