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Olives may be a powerful weapon in the fight against obesity

In a world grappling with rising obesity rates and the related diabetes crisis, enter stage left – elenolic acid, a natural compound found in olives. This humble constituent of your favorite Mediterranean salad is now stealing the limelight with its impressive potential to combat weight gain and regulate blood sugar levels.

The credit goes to Professor Dongmin Liu and his research team from the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise at Virginia Tech. Their ongoing investigation is centered around identifying bioactive compounds in natural products that could contribute to managing diabetes.

How does elenolic acid work?

In the microscopic universe of our bodies, the gut plays host to L-cells. They release two pivotal metabolic hormones, GLP-1 and PYY, during meals. These hormones are our body’s natural soldiers, fighting off overeating and striving to keep our blood sugar levels in check.

Enter elenolic acid. The researchers discovered that this compound, found in mature olives and extra virgin olive oil, nudges these hormones into action in the gut. The process involved converting oleuropein, a precursor of elenolic acid, into the compound, which is cheaper than direct extraction from olives.

“Overall, the study showed that elenolic acid from olives has promising effects on hormone release and metabolic health, particularly in obese and diabetic conditions,” said Liu.

Elenolic acid for obesity

In obese diabetic mice, the team administered oral elenolic acid, and the results were astounding. Within a week, these mice shed significant weight and displayed improved glucose regulation as compared to the control group of obese mice that were not given elenolic acid.

Over a span of four to five weeks, the mice experienced a 10.7% reduction in obesity. Their blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity put them on par with those of healthy lean mice.

Beyond weight and blood sugar

Professor Liu and his team discovered that elenolic acid had additional tricks up its sleeve. It slashed food intake, promoting further weight loss.

On the flip side, it gave a boost to circulating PYY and GLP-1 levels, while nipping in the bud the overexpression of agouti-related peptide, known to increase eating and weight gain.

Olive fountain of health

It’s worth noting that the concentration of elenolic acid in olive oil or olives is quite low. So, the impressive benefits from the study might not be achieved just by munching on olives or drizzling olive oil on your salad.

While the study shines a light on the potential health perks of elenolic acid, don’t count on olive products alone to replicate those results. Additional sources or supplements might be necessary to achieve similar effects.

Future of elenolic acid

“Lifestyle modifications and public health measures have had limited impact on the rising prevalence of obesity, one of the top risk factors for type 2 diabetes,” said Liu.

“Available obesity drugs are ineffective in weight loss maintenance, expensive and/or carry potential long-term safety risks. Our goal was to develop safer, cheaper and more convenient multi-targeting agents that can prevent the occurrence of metabolic disorders and type 2 diabetes.”

The Virginia Tech team now embarks on the next phase of their investigation: understanding how this compound creates metabolic benefits, unraveling its journey through the body, its absorption, distribution, and excretion.

This crucial exploration will lay the groundwork for future clinical trials, offering vital insights into the safety of using elenolic acid.

Who knows? The answer to offsetting obesity and diabetes could lie in an olive grove, where the humble olive may hold the key to better health. This promising area of study is gaining attention from scientists and health experts alike.

We’ll have our eyes peeled on the fascinating evolution of this research, eagerly anticipating discoveries and potential new treatments.

Preventive health

Incorporating elenolic acid into your diet or supplements could be a game-changer for preventive health. While traditional medicine has long valued the power of certain foods, modern medicine often emphasizes treatment over prevention.

But, with compounds like elenolic acid showing real promise, we could be entering a new era of nutritional science.

Imagine food-based interventions becoming the norm for preventing conditions like obesity and diabetes. This shift could reduce our dependence on medications and ease the burden on healthcare systems worldwide.


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