The researchers stumbled upon this finding when one of them realized that fresh extra-virgin olive oil irritates the back of the throat in a unique way, which is similar to the sensation one gets when swallowing ibuprofen. They were able to isolate the compound responsible for olive oil's "throaty bite" which was somewhat exclusive to the premium types of olive oil --- the extra virgin varieties. They named it oleocanthal, "oleo" for olive and "canth" to mean 'sting' for the "throaty bite."Dr Paul Breslin and his team at the Monell Chemical Senses Centre in Philadelphia have discovered olive oil contains the compound oleocanthal which suppresses the same pain pathway as ibuprofen.
"Structurally, it's not similar but pharmacologically it's very similar," says Dr Breslin, whose findings are published in the journal Nature.
The researchers calculate that a 50g daily dose of olive oil is equivalent to about 10 per cent of the dose of ibuprofen recommended for adult pain relief. So although it won't cure a headache, regular consumption of olive oil could confer some of the long-term benefits of ibuprofen --- such as reduced cancer risk.
The researchers say this could help to explain some of the often-quoted benefits of a Mediterranean diet.
[ The Scotsman, Sept 01 2005 ]
Want to know the difference between extra-virgin, virgin, and regular olive oil varieties? Click here.