Uncovering the Health Benefits of Olive Oil’s Main Component – Oleic Acid
Olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, widely thought to be one of the healthiest approaches to eating. Its health benefits have long been known and attributed to minor components like polyphenols – but a new study is bringing the spotlight to oleic acid, the main component of olive oil, which makes up 70 to 80 percent of its composition. Scientists from the Faculties of Pharmacy and Medicine at the University of Seville say oleic acid has properties that can lower cholesterol, and help prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Oleic acid is the principal monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) in the human circulatory system. It is a major component of membrane phospholipids in the human brain and is abundant in neuronal myelin sheaths. A decreased level of oleic acid has been observed in the brains of people with major depressive disorders and Alzheimer’s disease.
Oleic acid, like all free fatty acids, serves as an energy molecule and a part of cell membranes. Its antioxidant qualities, which can directly regulate both the synthesis and activity of antioxidant enzymes, are one of its most notable traits. It also has a hypocholesterolaemic effect, or its ability to inhibit the expression of proteins linked with cholesterol transport, reducing cholesterol absorption, and ultimately preventing atherosclerosis.
Moreover, oleic acid is regarded as an anti-cancer molecule due to its inhibitory effects on the overexpression of oncogenes and their effects on programmed cell death. Researchers generally view it as an anti-inflammatory molecule, although this is still up for debate among scientists. Oleoylethanolamide, a derivative of oleic acid, has also shown anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, making it a potential therapeutic agent to treat obesity. Emerging research suggests that oleic acid may influence epigenetic mechanisms and the modulation of the immune system via the regulation of cells linked to inflammation.
The authors of the study note that most studies on olive oil have been conducted on animals, and recommend further research on humans to confirm the significant properties of oleic acid and its derivative, oleoylethanolamide. Ultimately, the Mediterranean diet is the most widely recognized diet for preventing disease and aging, and olive oil is the most characteristic nutrient and the main fat in this diet.
0. “The Benefits of Olive Oil for Health and Well-Being” Lab Manager Magazine, 24 Feb. 2023, https://www.labmanager.com/news/the-benefits-of-olive-oil-for-health-and-well-being-29849
1. “Why you should make olive oil part of your diet immediately” The News International, 26 Feb. 2023, https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/1044479-why-you-should-make-olive-oil-a-part-of-your-diet