Oleocanthal – A Phenolic Compound with Anti-inflammatory Action
WHAT IS OLEOCANTHAL?
Freshly pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil contains a unique, naturally occurring compound called Oleocanthal. Oleocanthal is responsible for the pungency, peppery and stinging sensation in the throat, experienced with high quality and fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the only cooking oil which contains oleocanthal.
HOW DOES OLEOCANTHAL WORK?
Oleocanthal has been shown to act in a similar way to Ibuprofen, through having activity as a cyclo-oxygenase (COX) enzyme inhibitor. It has been suggested that Oleocanthal is a natural non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) agent. As a result, consumption of Oleocanthal in the diet, may reduce the formation of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins, and hence has the potential to reduce general inflammation in the body.
HOW MUCH EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL DO YOU NEED A DAY TO SEE AN EFFECT?
Beauchamp et al., 2005 reported that the consumption of small quantities of Oleocanthal (via Extra Virgin Olive Oil) may be responsible for the lower prevalence of chronic diseases associated with a Mediterranean dietary pattern.1 These researchers noted that ingestion of 50 g of Extra Virgin Olive Oil daily will provide approximately 10 mg of Oleocanthal which is considered to be equivalent to a low (10%) dose of ibuprofen, for pain relief.
DOES OLEOCANTHAL HELP WITH DEGENERATIVE JOINT DISEASE?
Prostaglandin (PGE2) has been implicated in the overall development of degenerative joint disease, commonly known as osteoarthritis. As Oleocanthal can inhibit PGE2 synthesis, through blockage of COX enzymes, it may play a role in reducing arthritic pain. Additionally, inducible nitric oxide (iNOS) is highly expressed in the synovial fluid of patients with osteoarthritis, and has been implicated in the pathophysiology of degenerative joint disease. Oleocanthal may reduce the expression of iNOS, and further reduce inflammation in osteoarthritis. On the basis of laboratory studies of Oleocanthal and the low incidence of inflammatory diseases in Mediterranean populations who consume Oleocanthal in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, randomised controlled trials in humans are the next step.2
WHAT ARE THE SOME OTHER PROPOSED HEALTH BENEFITS OF OLEOCANTHAL?
In vitro evidence has shown some promising results relating to phenolic compounds in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and their ability to inhibit the initiation of metastases of several types of cancer.1 The COX-2 enzyme has been implicated in the pathogenesis of several cancers, making oleocanthal a compound of interest for future cancer research.1
It has also been postulated that oleocanthal, together with other phenolics found in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, may exert a neurotherapeutic effect on the brain, which is also supported by the low incidence of neurodegenerative diseases in populations who regularly consume Extra Virgin Olive Oil.1
IS THERE THE SAME AMOUNT OF OLEOCANTHAL IN ALL EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OILS?
The concentration of Oleocanthal can vary in Extra Virgin Olive Oils, from 0.2 mg/Kg to 498 mg/Kg, with highest levels occurring in oil where the olives are harvested early.3 Some recent studies have also noted the variability of Oleocanthal with levels up to 711 mg/Kg.4