Freshly pressed olive oil can ease the pain of living too well – literally – researchers said Wednesday.
The throat-stinging squeezings of the pulped olive – the only vegetable oil that can be consumed without processing – contains a compound that has the same pain-relieving effect of the popular over-the-counter drug ibuprofen, scientists at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia reported in research published in the journal Nature.
The discovery of a natural anti-inflammatory agent in extra-virgin olive oil offers a reliable biochemical insight into the well-documented but puzzling health benefits of a Mediterranean diet, which appears to lower the risk of cancer, heart ailments and some chronic diseases even though it is high in fat and salt.
Only the freshest – and usually most expensive – olive oil, however, contains significant amounts of the pungent compound, called oleocanthal, the researchers said. Aging and cooking destroy it.
The irritating intensity of the taste of a fresh extra virgin olive oil turned out to be directly related to how much oleocanthal the oil contained.
Inflammation is believed to underpin a variety of chronic diseases, the researchers said.
“When we checked the pharmacology, it was identical to ibuprofen,” said Monell researcher Paul Breslin, an expert in the psycho-physics of food who helped lead a team of scientists that spent two years investigating this chemical property of olive oil. The Monell center is an independent nonprofit research .
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.