Compound in Olives Aids Blood Sugar, Weight

It seems that olives are one of the most divisive foods in existence. Genetics can play a significant role in why people dislike foods like olives, cilantro, anchovies, blue cheese and licorice. You can learn to overcome disliking those flavors. That’s why they are often called “acquired tastes.” And, in the case of olives, there may be a good reason to learn to like them — or at least what’s in them.

A new mouse study found that elenolic acid found naturally in olives can lower blood sugar and boost weight loss. It could be the key to making less expensive natural products for blood sugar and weight management.

Lifestyle modifications and public health measures have had limited impact on the rising prevalence of obesity, one of the top risk factors for [blood sugar concerns],” said Dr. Dongmin Liu, research team leader at Virginia Tech. “Available obesity drugs are ineffective in weight loss maintenance, expensive and/or carry potential long-term safety risks. Our goal was to develop safer, cheaper and more convenient multi-targeting agents that can prevent the occurrence of metabolic disorders and [blood sugar concerns].”

Dr. Liu’s research is focused on looking for bioactive compounds in natural products for blood sugar management. As elenolic acid targets hormone secretion during meals, it helped the mice feel full, prevented overeating and aided blood sugar levels and metabolism.

Mice with obesity and blood sugar concerns were split into two groups. A control group was given nothing but their regular diet. The other group was given oral elenolic acid. After just one week, they had better blood sugar regulation and weighed significantly less. After five weeks, their insulin sensitivity levels were comparable to those of lean, healthy mice.

There is good news for folks who don’t want to add olives to their diets. The concentration of elenolic acid in olives and olive oil isn’t high enough to impact health. Eating olives and olive products alone wouldn’t be able to budge the needle for health. Instead, this study suggests that elenolic acid may be the next big supplement for blood sugar or the basis of new blood sugar products.

The team is now studying how elenolic acid impacts the body to be sure it is safe. The amount we eat in food differs from what we would take as a supplement. The example we always point to is that almonds contain cyanide! Just because a food is safe doesn’t mean a large amount of everything in it is great. Sometimes, something can help one part of the body while damaging another. If it is safe, this research will move on to human studies.  

Banner image: Polina Tankilevitch via Pexels

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