Olive oil, an integral part of Mediterranean diet, is known to have numerous health benefits that protect against heart diseases and some
cancers. It also modifies the immune and inflammatory responses of the
body. A new study showed that extra virgin olive oil and its hydrophilic extract protect against oxidative damage of the liver.
impaired antioxidant defence of the body is one of the major causes for the development of heart disease, cancer and premature degeneration of the nerve cells. A healthy human body maintains a balance between the generation of Reactive Oxidant Species (ROS) which cause oxidation, and the counteractive antioxidant defences. ROS are by-products of normal metabolic processes and accidental exposure to occupational chemicals like pesticides accelerate their production.
A recent study reported that rats fed on a diet containing olive oil were protected from liver damage following exposure to a moderately toxic chemical called 2, 4-Dichlorophenoxyaceticacid (2, 4-D). 2, 4-D
is one of the most widely used herbicides that causes liver damage. It
is known to produce oxidative stress, and/or deplete antioxidants.
In the study, rats fed on the
herbicide 2, 4-D were supplemented with either extra virgin olive oil, or one of
its extracts (hydrophilic or lipophilic).
2, 4-D caused significant liver
damage in the rats. Intake of extra virgin olive oil or its hydrophilic
fraction induced a substantial increase in antioxidant activity and decreased
markers of liver damage. These two contained a high amount of phenols, which
could contribute to the antoxidant effect. The lipophilic fraction, which was
deprived of phenols, failed to produce a protective effect.
Authors of the study concluded that
extra virgin olive oil and its hydrophilic extract protect against oxidative damage
of liver cells. More detailed studies dealing with the effect of antioxidant
compounds separately and/or their interactions could corroborate these results.
Effects of olive oil and its fractions on oxidative stress and the liver's
fatty acid composition in 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid-treated rats; Amel et
al; Nutrition & Metabolism 2010.