If you recall the Mediterranean Diet craze, it’s likely you also remember one good thing that came out of it (though overall the diet IS sound): olive oil helped change “fat is bad!” to “some fats and oils have positive health benefits to most people.”
Now scientists are saying olive oil may actually help you to reduce fat in the body, specifically the liver, and could even reverse NAFLD.
Researchers at the University of Chile say they have isolated a compound in olive oil that may help in the fight against excess weight and fat around the liver. The compound, hydroxytyrosol, reversed signs of insulin resistance in laboratory mice, even ones fed a high-fat diet. This would mean the constituent may not only help reverse insulin resistance and a fatty liver issue but might protect the body when one eats high-fat.
Antioxidant Properties are Key
According to Dr. Rodrigo Valenzuela, University of Chile: “Hydroxytyrosol…is known to have antioxidant properties and may play a key role in its health benefits.”
This idea was backed by the recent study.
“Our research shows that in mice fed on a high-fat diet, hydroxytyrosol exerts a protective effect in the liver,” Dr. Valenzuela said.
“Our study found that mice fed on a high-fat diet had signs of non-alcoholic liver disease which we believe has led to the noticeable reduction in enzyme activity in the liver and the negative effects on fatty acid composition in this, and other, organs…We also found that the liver showed signs of increased oxidative stress, which we know has links to fatty liver disease,” Dr. Valenzuela added.
Implications: Should You Eat a High-Fat Diet?
Most doctors agree that adding olive oil in small doses – usually 1-2 tablespoons per day – can have health benefits, and the Chile study seems to show that it might protect even when one eats a high-fat diet.
But until more is known about the fat-protective mechanism of hydroxytyrosol, it may be too soon to order up the double chili burger with cheese and a side of EVOO.
“We have demonstrated that this compound may offer protection against oxidative stress and detrimental fatty acid composition in the liver, heart and brain caused by a high-fat diet,” Dr. Valenzuela revealed, but “…caution should be taken when extrapolating these findings to human consumption of hydroxytyrosol as our experiments have been conducted with mice in a controlled environment.”
The full report of the study was published in the Lipids in Health and Disease.