Australian Natural Bodz - - Nutrition Knowledge Centre -

Oleu­ropein is a com­pound that oc­curs nat­u­rally in olive oil and helps the body to use pro­teins more eco­nom­i­cally. In a Ja­panese study, pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Nutri­tional Bio­chem­istry, rats that had a pro­tein­rich diet re­tained no less than 46 per­cent more pro­tein when large amounts of oleu­ropein were added to their food. In ad­di­tion, they pro­duced more testos­terone and less cor­ti­sol.

Oleu­ropein is found in olives, olive oil and leaves of the olive tree. Sup­ple­ments con­tain­ing olive­leaf ex­tracts have been on the mar­ket for years, and if you look care­fully you’ll find cheap ex­tracts con­tain­ing 25 per­cent oleu­ropein.

With a bit of chem­i­cal tin­ker­ing you can re­move the glu­cose group from the oleu­ropein mol­e­cule, leav­ing you with a pared­down ver­sion – chemists call it an agly­con – of oleu­ropein. The Ja­panese ex­per­i­mented with the nat­u­ral ver­sion of oleu­ropein. Seven years ago the Ja­panese re­ported that vir­gin olive oil boosted the me­tab­o­lism of rats.

It was the phe­nol oleu­ropein that was re­spon­si­ble for this, they dis­cov­ered later. [J Nutr Sci Vi­ta­minol (Tokyo). 2008 Oct;54(5):363­70.] Oleu­ropein boosted the se­cre­tion of adrenalin and no­ra­drenalin in rats, and made the brown fat cells burn more fatty acids. The dis­cov­ery of the adren­er­gic ef­fect of oleu­ropein prompted some man­u­fac­tur­ers to add oleu­ropein to body­build­ing sup­ple­ments.

Fif­teen years ago the same re­searchers dis­cov­ered that gar­lic had ap­prox­i­mately the same ef­fect. And when the Ja­panese com­bined gar­lic sup­ple­men­ta­tion with a pro­tein­rich diet, they ob­served that the gar­lic boosted an­abolism: lab an­i­mals re­tained more ni­tro­gen, and pro­duced more testos­terone and less cor­ti­sol. That’s why the Ja­panese were cu­ri­ous whether oleu­ropein also had a sim­i­lar an­abolic ef­fect.

The re­searchers gave three groups of rats food con­tain­ing 10, 25 or 40 per­cent pro­tein [Ca­sein] for 28 days. Half of the rats in each group were given food con­tain­ing 1 g oleu­ropein per kg.

The re­searchers counted the num­ber of ni­tro­gen mol­e­cules in the urine and drop­pings of the rats, which en­abled them to cal­cu­late how much ni­tro­gen the rats re­tained. The more ni­tro­gen you re­tain, the more pro­teins your body builds up. Ni­tro­gen is an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of pro­teins.

The study showed that the rats re­tained rel­a­tively more ni­tro­gen, the more oleu­ropein they con­sumed. In the group that ate food con­tain­ing the most pro­tein, sup­ple­men­ta­tion with oleu­ropein boosted the amount of ni­tro­gen re­tained by 46 per­cent.

In the rats that ate large amounts of pro­tein, oleu­ropein tripled the con­cen­tra­tion of testos­terone in the testes, while the con­cen­tra­tion of cor­ti­sol in the blood went down by more than half. The con­cen­tra­tion of LH in­creased as the re­searchers in­tro­duced in­creas­ingly higher con­cen­tra­tions of agly­con made from oleu­ropein into the rats’ cir­cu­la­tory sys­tem. This in­creased se­cre­tion of LH may be a con­se­quence of the higher adrenalin and no­ra­drenalin lev­els caused by the oleu­ropein, the Ja­panese think.

The re­searchers be­lieve that these hor­monal ef­fects are the key to ex­plain­ing the an­abolic ef­fect of oleu­ropein. “Oleu­ropein sup­ple­men­ta­tion en­hances pro­tein an­abolism and sup­presses pro­tein catabolism ow­ing to hor­monal reg­u­la­tion by the stim­u­la­tion of steroid hor­mones via no­ra­drenaline, lead­ing to a higher tes­tic­u­lar testos­terone level and a lower plasma cor­ti­cos­terone level in rats fed a high­pro­tein diet”, the re­searchers con­clude.

In­ter­est­ingly, the rats that were given oleu­ropein did not put on weight. As far as the re­searchers could see – al­though they did not study the ef­fect on body com­po­si­tion ex­ten­sively – the rats be­came slim­mer. Their fat de­posits did shrink at least. So do­ing a quick cal­cu­la­tion: a rat eats about 50 g feed per kg body­weight daily. That means 50 mg oleu­ropein. Con­verted to hu­man pro­por­tions, that means 8 mg oleu­ropein per kg body­weight per day. So if you weigh 80 kg, you’d need 640 mg oleu­ropein daily. If you can get that quan­tity out of an olive leaf ex­tract that con­sists of 25 per­cent oleu­ropein, you’d need about 2.6 g ex­tract each day. That’s man­age­able.

Ref: J Nutr Biochem. 2013 May;24(5):887­93.

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