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Study says extra-virgin olive oil may relieve pain

Los Angeles Times

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 .

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