Chances are, you’ve heard of the Mediterranean diet, which proponents say can help reduce the risk of a wide variety of ailments. One of the staples of this diet is olive oil, which comes from the olive leaf. Turns out, the active compound found in olive leaf extract, known as oleuropein, has been associated with many different health benefits. Take a look at the evidence, and then decide whether increasing your intake of oleuropein could be right for you.
What is Oleuropein?
If you’ve ever eaten olives, you know they have a distinct, slightly bitter taste. Well, oleuropein is the compound that gives olives their wonderful flavor.
But this incredible substance does a lot more than give olives their zip. Oleuropein has been shown to support your body in many ways. Processed oleuropein is available through not only food, but supplements as well.
Oleuropein belongs to a family of plant compounds known as polyphenols, which are chemicals found in plants. Polyphenols are not only found in vegetables, but also in fruits, grains, and certain beverages, such as red wine and coffee.1
Polyphenols are antioxidants – substances that help protect the health of your cells. Antioxidants fight free radicals. These are dangerous molecules that attack the cells that make up your muscles and tissues.2
Here are just some of the benefits associated with oleuropein:
1. Supported Blood Pressure
There is evidence that the oleuropein in olive leaf extract could help keep blood pressure healthy. In one study, researchers found that participants who received supplements containing the extract not only enjoyed lower blood pressure, but also reduced LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.3 This is the type of cholesterol that can accumulate in your arteries and lead to severe cardiovascular problems.4
2. Maintaining the Health of Your Arteries
Another one of the significant benefits of this extract from the olive leaf appears to be arterial health. The cells along the walls of your arteries, known as endothelial cells, help to ensure that blood flows smoothly.5 Research shows that oleuropein may help keep these cells healthy.
Polyphenols, such as oleuropein, have potential when it comes to maintaining artery walls — and keeping them clean from plaque. They do this in two ways. One is by inhibiting the development of molecules that cause platelets and white blood cells to adhere to arterial walls.6 The second is by reducing the clumping of platelets, in hopes of preventing clots.7 More research is required to determine if oleuropein is one of these artery-maintaining polyphenols, but scientists see great potential for it.
3. Keeping Blood Sugar Levels Healthy
Studies show that supplements containing olive leaf extract may help keep blood sugar levels in check.8 For people who have high blood sugar, there’s evidence that proper blood sugar- management may help to reduce the chances of further complications.9
4. Antimicrobial Properties
It also appears that oleuropein may help fight harmful microbes. For example, testing shows that two substances found in oleuropein, aglycone and oleanolic acid, inhibit the growth of lactic acid bacteria.10 If too much lactic acid develops in your body, you may experience severe muscle discomfort or weakness, as well as a decrease in appetite.11
5. Joint Support
Oleuropein may also help protect your joints. That’s because it is thought to inhibit the development of proteins known as cytokines. And in some cases, cytokines have been linked to joint discomfort.12,13In addition, research shows it helps improve the health of affected tissues.14 Research also shows that a specific enzyme in oleuropein may help to keep the uric acid crystals from forming.15
The Bottom Line
As you can see, the humble olive contains powerful ingredients that have been shown to help deliver substantial health benefits. There are a lot of reasons why you should think about either including more olives in your diet, or taking supplements that contain oleuropein, the compound responsible for most of these benefits. However, you should never change the way you eat or take any supplement without first talking to your doctor. That way, you’ll know it will be completely safe for you to do so.
Learn More About Olives:
Olive Leaf Extract: 6 Reasons Why This is Essential
5 Amazing Olive Oil Benefits (Eat more. Now!)