Oleuropein is a substance present in considerable concentrations in the leaves of the olive tree, and also in smaller quantities in the olive pulp and consequently also in its oil. It has been observed that, in addition to having an antioxidant action, it has a strong effect on the cardiovascular system.
In the heart it has an antiarrhythmic action, and, on the arteries, it has a vasodilating action helping to reduce blood pressure. Today there are on the market many phytotherapy products based in olive leave extracts, containing oleuropein, used as very effective antihypertensive agents.
Recent studies have recognized the hypoglycemic action of oleuropein, that is, it improves the bodies regulation of glycemia. It is useful in the prevention of osteoporosis, and studies are also being done to understand its effects as an antitumor and neuroprotective agent.
Hydroxytyrosol is a substance also found in EVOs, similar to oleuropein. It has an immunostimulant action and inhibits platelet aggregation, preventing the formation of intravascular thrombi.
Another substance present in olive oil that has an interesting and, in some ways, surprising effect is oleocanthal. It too belongs to the large family of polyphenols and is responsible for that “tingling” in the throat and spicy aftertaste that some oils have. This molecule, although present in the oil in very small quantities, has an action similar to that of anti-inflammatory drugs, as it inhibits the action of inflammation mediators.
It seems that many of the healthful properties of olive oil, in fighting different types of diseases such as atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s and probably also tumors, may be due to the ability of oleocanthal, and other polyphenols, in fighting the chronic low-grade inflammation that is almost always present in these diseases. In recent years, a specific anti-tumor effect of oleocanthal has also been observed as it seems to have the ability to eliminate only degenerated cells while leaving healthy cells intact. Oleocanthal is at its most active in freshly pressed oil, its effects tending to disappear after a year or two.
Elenolic acid is a nutraceutical substance present in EVO which has been shown to have a powerful antiviral effect, particularly against the flu virus and the herpes virus.
In light of these new nutraceutical effects identified in olive oil over the years, today a regular intake of high-quality extra virgin olive oil is recommended (25-30g per day).