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Olive oil compound reverses high-fat diet damage
April 23, 2017, 1:35 pm

The health benefits of extra-virgin olive oil are well-known, but less is known about the biological and physiological mechanisms behind these benefits. New research shows that a compound found in extra-virgin olive oil can reverse the adverse health effects of a high-fat diet.

Researchers at the University of Chile set out to investigate the effects of a compound found in extra-virgin olive oil on the health of mice.

The compound called hydroxytyrosol is well-known for its antioxidant properties and is suspected of being the reason behind the many health benefits of olive oil. New research now shows that hydroxytyrosol also has a protective effect on the liver, at least on the liver in mice.

The research team examined the effects of hydroxytyrosol on mice that were fed a diet high in fat. Especially, they looked at certain enzymes that play a key role in the synthesis of some health benefitting polyunsaturated fatty acids that are known to improve cardiovascular health, brain function, and cell growth, as well as lower LDL cholesterol, the so called ‘bad’ cholesterol.

By contrast, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is known as the "good" cholesterol because it transports the cholesterol from other parts of the human body back to the liver, where it is processed and eliminated.

The researchers fed four groups of mice, each comprising 12 to 14 rodents, either a high-fat diet (consisting of 60 percent fat) or a control diet (with only 10 percent fat). Additionally, some mice were also administered 5 milligrams of hydroxytyrosol per kilogram of body weight over a period of 12 weeks.

In the mice that had been fed a high-fat diet, both the total cholesterol levels and the levels of LDL-cholesterol increased, while the HDL cholesterol remained unchanged. However, hydroxytyrosol seemed to reduce the negative effect of these types of cholesterol in the mice that had taken it.

A high-fat diet also seemed to raise the markers of insulin resistance. Again, in the mice that had also taken hydroxytyrosol, these markers were reduced. However, they were not as low as the levels of the mice that had been on a regular diet.

Importantly, mice that had been on a high-fat diet showed decreased levels of the liver enzymes that help to synthesize the beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acids. The reduction in the liver enzymes was connected with an imbalance in the fatty acids found in the liver, brain, and heart.

However, the mice whose high-fat diet was also supplemented with hydroxytyrosol showed enzymatic activity and fatty acid composition similar to that of the mice that were fed a normal diet. This suggests that hydroxytyrosol may have reversed the damaging effects of a high-fat diet.

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