Olive oil gets its fair share of attention, and with good reason. It’s a rich source of antioxidants that helps protect against free radical damage and, in doing so, helps prevent numerous diseases like diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome and Alzheimer’s. But there’s more to the olive than just its oil.
Thanks to a growing body of research on the other components of the olive and olive tree — like its juice and leaves — we’re discovering that this tiny, flavorful fruit has many more health benefits.
Olive leaf, in particular, has been studied more and more over the years for its antioxidant and antimicrobial qualities, and for its ability to fight viral and yeast infections.
And studies have shown that olive leaf extract may reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lower blood pressure,making it an excellent heart-protective nutrient.
With that in mind, researchers in Iran were curious about olive leaf’s effects on LDL oxidation, something that had not been extensively studied.
Oxidation occurs when the LDL particles react with free radicals. The risk of oxidation increases with such factors as a high-fat diet (particularly trans fats), smoking and uncontrolled diabetes. LDL cholesterol becomes more harmful when it is oxidized because it can produce inflammation in the arteries, making you much more vulnerable to atherosclerosis and heart attack or stroke.
In this particular study, 10 male participants volunteered to have their blood sampled. Researchers induced oxidation in the samples with copper sulfate (CuSO4), then added various concentrations of olive leaf extract to the samples. After careful monitoring (every 10 minutes for five hours), they found that markers of LDL oxidation decreased significantly in those samples that contained the olive leaf extract.
Researchers concluded that olive leaves are a potent antioxidant that could greatly reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, heart disease and other diseases associated with free radical damage.
Homage to the Olive
Considering the many benefits of olives as a whole, making them a part of your daily diet may serve your body well. The easiest way to incorporate them is to use olive oil as your oil of choice for salad dressings and marinades.
And for added antioxidant punch, consider taking an olive leaf extract supplement, which you can find at many health food stores and vitamin retailers. The general daily dosage is 500 mg.
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Singh I et al. The effects of polyphenols in olive leaves on platelet function. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2008;18(2):127–32.
Pieroni A et al. In-vitro anti-complementary activity of flavonoids from olive (Olea europaea L.) leaves. Pharmazie. 1996 Oct;51(10):765–8.
Ahmadvand H et al. Effects of olive leaves extract on LDL oxidation induced-CuSO4 in vitro. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2012 Jul;25(3):571–5.
Larissa Long has worked in the health care communications field for more than 13 years. She co-authored a self-care book titled Taking Care, has written countless tip sheets and e-letters on health topics, and contributed several articles to Natural Solutions magazine. She also served as managing editor of three alternative health and lifestyle newsletters — Dr. Susan Lark’s Women’s Wellness Today, Dr. David Williams’ Alternatives, and Janet Luhrs’ Simple Living.
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