A new study published this month in Food Research International provides support for the use of oleocanthal, one of the main medicinal compounds found in high-phenolic extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), in humans with systemic lupus erythematosus (commonly referred to as lupus).
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects multiple organs due to a dysregulated immune-inflammatory response. There is currently an unmet need for lupus treatments, as the current treatment strategy is not completely effective. Recent studies have indicated the benefit of nutritional therapies for the management and prevention of autoimmune diseases (see Benefits below for a few examples).
While oleocanthal has previously been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and to regulate the immune-inflammatory response in several other disease contexts (e.g., osteoarthritis), no studies to date have evaluated nutritional intervention with oleocanthal or oleocanthal-rich foods for treatment or symptom management in lupus.
This new study uses a mouse model of lupus that replicates the pathogenic characteristics and functional abnormalities seen in human lupus patients. The mouse model is characterized by an elevated immune-inflammatory response, joint inflammation (i.e., arthritis), kidney dysfunction, and endothelial dysfunction (i.e., narrowing of blood vessels in the heart). Mice in the experimental group received a diet supplemented with oleocanthal for 6 months, whereas the control group did not receive oleocanthal supplementation.
After 6 months, mice given oleocanthal displayed decreased immune activity, improved kidney pathology, and improved aorta blood vessel function compared with the control group.
Supplementation with oleocanthal reduced the levels of inflammatory proteins compared with the control group. Likewise, signaling through pathways associated with inflammation and oxidation was decreased in oleocanthal-treated mice compared with control mice. Altogether, these data indicate that oleocanthal supplementation for 6 months reduced the effects of lupus in this mouse model.
In summary, this is the first study to suggest that dietary oleocanthal can improve the disease state of lupus. Additionally, prior studies have reported the beneficial properties of other bioactive compounds found in EVOO (e.g., hydroxytyrosol, hydroxytyrosol acetate, oleuropein, and oleuropein-acylderivative), as well as dietary EVOO in the same mouse model of lupus. While further clinical studies are still needed to determine if oleocanthal or the consumption of high-phenolic EVOO can improve or prevent the pathogenic characteristics of lupus in human patients, the results of this pilot study keep researchers hopeful about the possibility of nutritional intervention with EVOO for treatment or prevention of lupus.
Key Takeaway: Oleocanthal supplementation for 6 months reduced the pathogenic effects of lupus in a mouse model.
Read the full study here.
Benefits of Dietary EVOO or EVOO-Associated Polyphenols for Immune Diseases
- Multiple Sclerosis: the administration of EVOO, hydroxytyrosol, or oleic acid to a rat model of MS reduced oxidative damage, inflammatory activation, and disease clinical scoring compared to control groups.
- Type I Diabetes: Type I diabetics that added EVOO to their diet displayed improved vascular function compared with adding butter to their diet.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: Topical administration of EVOO improved inflammatory pain in joints in women with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Osteoarthritis: In vitro (ie, in a dish), oleocanthal reduced inflammatory signaling in osteoarthritic cartilage cells.
Montoya T. (2023, January 9) Oleocanthal supplemented diet improves renal damage and endothelial dysfunction in pristane-induced systemic lupus erythematosus in mice https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S096399692201198X
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