Biochemists dip into the anti-diabetic benefits of olives and olive oil

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13 Sep 2017 --- A research team at Virginia Tech university in the US has discovered that the olive-derived compound oleuropein helps the body secrete more insulin, the central signaling molecule in the body that controls metabolism. The same compound also detoxifies the signaling molecule amylin that over-produces and forms harmful aggregates in Type 2 diabetes, according to the study. In these two distinct ways, oleuropein has been found to help prevent the onset of disease.

The findings were recently published in the journal Biochemistry as a Rapid Report, which is reserved for timely topics of unusual interest, according to the journal. They have the potential to have a great effect as the world of medicine and the general public work out how to deal with current and coming diabetes-related problems.

“Our work provides new mechanistic insights into the long-standing question of why olive products can be anti-diabetic,” says Bin Xu, lead author, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and a Fralin Life Science Institute affiliate. “We believe it will not only contribute to the biochemistry of the functions of the olive component oleuropein, but also have an impact on the general public to pay more attention to olive products in light of the current diabetes epidemic.”

“Oleuropein promotes glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) in β-cells,” states the study. “The effect is dose-dependent and it stimulates ERK/MAPK signaling pathway. We further demonstrated that oleuropein inhibits the cytotoxicity induced by amylin amyloid, a hallmark feature of Type 2 diabetes. We demonstrated that these dual functions are structural-specific: we identified 3-hydroxytyrosol moiety of oleuropein as the main functional entity for amyloid inhibition, but the novel GSIS function requires the entire structure scaffold of the molecule.”

Mediterranean diet validated
The health benefits of olives – and associated natural products such as olive oil – have long been recognized and touted by proponents of the Mediterranean diet.

However, according to the Virginia Tech press release, little was previously known about what specific compounds and biochemical interactions in the fruit contribute to its medical and nutritional benefits such as weight loss and prevention of Type 2 diabetes.

The discovery could help improve understanding of the scientific basis of health benefits of olive products and potentially develop new, low-cost nutraceutical strategies to fight Type 2 diabetes and related obesity.

Next steps include testing the compound in a diabetic animal model and investigation of additional new functions of this compound, or its components, in metabolism and aging, according to the Virginia Tech press release.

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