Biochemists discover what makes olive oil help with weight loss

By Emma Jane Cash

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock
Biochemist researchers at Virginia Tech have uncovered the compounds responsible for olive oil’s ability to help with weight loss, shedding new light on the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet.

The results, which could also help diabetes prevention, were published in a rapid report in the journal Biochemistry​.

The research team reported that the natural compound derived from olive leaves, oleuropein, has anti-diabetic functions as well as evidence that oleuropein promotes glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) in β-cells.

Furthermore the compound showed capabilities to inhibit the cytotoxicity induced by amylin amyloids, a hallmark feature of type 2 diabetes.

An oil with many benefits

Olive oil has been researched extensively with findings showing that consumption could have an abundance of health benefits including cardiovascular health benefits​, reducing osteoporosis fracture risk​, reducing depression​ and even making you smarter.

It is has previously been suggested that olive oil can aid with weight loss​ also, however researchers had not been able to discover the exact reasons why.

This new study reports on the exact mechanisms that contribute to its medicinal and nutritional benefits.

"Our work provides new mechanistic insights into the long-standing question of why olive products can be anti-diabetic,” ​said Bin Xu, study lead and assistant professor of biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and a Fralin Life Science Institute affiliate.

“We believe it will not only contribute to the biochemistry of the functions of the olive component oleuropein, but also have an impact on the general public to pay more attention to olive products in light of the current diabetes epidemic.”

The team believe that their discovery could help develop new, low-cost nutraceuticals strategies to fight type 2 diabetes and related obesity.

It was found that oleuropein helps the body produce more insulin, helping to regulate metabolism and allowing cells to use sugar for energy.

Thus making it less likely for the body to put on weight.

The study

Researchers screened a library of natural compounds, including flavonoids and polyphenols, that have anti-diabetic functions in complementary medicines based on a thioflavin T fluorescence assay.

Through this process, the team identified oleuropein and its health benefits.

Oleuropein’s insulin secretion in INS-1 β –cells was then analysed to examine how it aided the metabolism.

The team also performed cell signalling analyses in INS-1 β-cells to further validate oleuropein’s effects.

“On the basis of the cell signalling activation used by other ligands that induce GSIS effets in ​β-cells, we used a standard pharmacological inhibitor approach. We tested the involvement of major kinase pathways that are related to metabolism: protein kinase A, protein kinase C, ERK/MAPK, PI3 kinase and the AMP-activated kinase,”​ the team explained.

The next steps for these findings are to test the effects of oleuropein and its components in counter-acting amylin amyloid deposition in the pancreas as well as in positively regulating hyperglycemia in diabetic animal models in the future.

Source: Biochemistry

“Olive Component Oleuropein Promotes ​β-Cell Insulin Secretion and Protects ​β-Cells from Amylin Amyloid-Induced Cytotoxicity”

 Published online, August 2017, DOI: 10.1021/acs.biochem.7b00199

Authors: Ling Wu, Paul Velander, Dongmin Liu and Bin Xu

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