Atherosclerosis (colloquially known as hardening of the arteries) is a relatively common complaint that can have serious health consequences. However, a herbal compound made from olives or olive oil could enable effective prevention.
Cardiff University has recently published research examining the effects of hydroxytyrosol against atherosclerosis using mice. Hydroxytyrosol is a plant compound found primarily in olives and olive oil.
Atherosclerosis is a significant risk factor
Atherosclerosis is characterized by the accumulation of lipids in the artery wall and is considered a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, accounting for a third of all deaths worldwide, explains study author Reem Alotibi from Cardiff University.
However, the current pharmacological therapeutics for the treatment of arteriosclerosis have so far been limited and are often associated with significant side effects. Therefore, alternative active ingredients are needed to prevent and treat the disease, emphasizes Alotibi.
Positive effects of olive oil
It was already known from previous research that olive oil can prevent cardiovascular diseases, although this effect is also attributed to the polyphenols it contains. One of these phenolic compounds is hydroxytyrosol.
Additionally, hydroxytyrosol is the only polyphenol recognized by the European Food Safety Authority as protecting against oxidative damage caused by low-density lipoproteins, Alotibi reports.
Hydroxytyrosol against atherosclerosis?
To date, however, the effect of hydroxytyrosol on atherosclerosis in vivo has not been sufficiently investigated. The study author therefore used mice to check what effect hydroxytyrosol can have against atherosclerosis.
To do this, mice with a low-density lipoprotein receptor deficiency were given either a high-fat diet or a high-fat diet in combination with hydroxytyrosol (ten milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day) for twelve weeks.
Furthermore, a group of mice was first fed a high-fat diet for twelve weeks so that the first lesions on the blood vessels were formed, and then normal feeding or normal feeding in combination with hydroxytyrosol was given.
Alotibi then examined the atherosclerosis-associated risk factors, the plaques present in the arteries and changes in gene expression and the associated signaling pathways in the thoracic aorta.
In addition, the liver was also analyzed in relation to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is often associated with atherosclerosis, according to the study author.
Many benefits of the olive oil active ingredient
In the female mice on a high-fat diet, hydroxytyrosol intake caused less weight gain, a smaller plaque size in the aortic root and a lower neutrophil content in the peripheral blood, while in the male mice the nutritional supplement resulted in less occlusion and fewer T cells in the were detectable in peripheral blood, explains Alotibi.
In all mice, taking hydroxytyrosol reduced plaque inflammation and improved the plasma lipid profile and plaque stability. In the male mice, the liver damage was also alleviated when taken in combination with normal feeding.
Significant anti-atherogenic effect
Overall, the study results indicate a significant anti-atherogenic effect of hydroxytyrosol. Dietary supplements with the active ingredient from olive oil appear to be a promising approach to preventing atherosclerosis.
This is particularly true since there are no known undesirable effects and the costs would be relatively low compared to typical pharmacological treatments, according to the study author. Further research is now required to determine the mechanisms responsible for the anti-atherogenic effect. (fp)