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Two recent studies have found that a constituent of olives and olive oil inhibits the growth of breast cancer and the development of Alzheimer's disease.
The breast cancer research comes from scientists at the King Saud University. The researchers treated human breast cancer cells with a constituent of olives known as Oleuropein. The testing found that Oleuropein produced genetic changes among breast cancer cells that serve to inhibit their ability to metastasize and grow throughout the body.
One of the two key genetic changes influenced by the Oleuropein was the inhibition of the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) enzymes. These MMPs – specifically MMP2 and MMP9 - usher the process of metastasizing. The MMP enzymes were blocked, effectively inhibiting the spread of the cancer.
The Oleuropein extract also stimulated a genetic expression of the TIMP gene. When these genes are expressed, through a polymerase chain reaction, tumor growth is halted.
The researchers concluded that:
"Treatment of breast cancer cells with oleuropein could help in prevention of cancer metastasis by increasing the TIMPs and suppressing the MMPs gene expressions."
In a separate study – this from researchers from Greece's National Center for Scientific Research – Oleuropein was found to inhibit the development of brain cell amyloid-beta protein precursor along with β-amyloid (Aβ) metabolism. Aβ metabolism has been linked to causing long-term memory loss among elderly persons.
The researchers treated human cells that had become subjected to the growth of β-amyloid protein complex – duplicating what occurs within the brain of someone developing Alzheimer's. They treated the cells with Oleuropein and found that the olive extract interacted with the amyloid proteins in such a way that halted the Aβ metabolism process. In this case, Oleuropein stimulated MMP-9 activity amongst these amyloid-beta complexed cells. Increasing MMP-9 activity helps reduce the amyloid-beta oligomers amongst these cells.
The researchers concluded that: "The experimental data reveal an anti-amyloidogenic effect of Oleuropein and suggest a possible protective role for Oleuropein against Alzheimer's disease, extending the spectrum of beneficial properties of this naturally occurring polyphenol."
While olives contain a number of polyphenols, Oleuropein is one of the best known. Other polyphenols within olives and olive oil can include hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol and verbascoside.
Along with these benefits, Oleuropein has been found to dilate the blood vessels, reducing blood pressure and increasing bloodflow. Olive's high level of antioxidants also gives it a tremendous anti-inflammatory capacity, especially among the cardiovascular system. Olive leaf has been found to be antiviral. It appears to inhibit virus' ability to replicate, preventing viral shedding and budding within the cells and cell membrane.
Olives are also rich in a host of other beneficial nutrients, including copper, vitamin E and iron. The olive also contains a unique monounsaturated fatty acid called oleic acid. Olive oil also contains linoleic, palmitic, stearic and linolenic fatty acids. The combination of fats in olive helps balance pro-inflammatory fats such as saturated fats and arachidonic acids in other foods.