We all know that olives are healthy, but now we know why. Olive oil contains oleuropein. Oleuropein is a polyphenol possessing many health benefits and gives extra virgin oil its tangy and pungent flavor. Olive oil is a mainstay of the Mediterranean Diet which has long been associated with lower rates of heart disease and cancer.
Oleuropein is probably the reason for this reduction in disease. While oleuropein is found in the olive fruit itself it is more abundant in the leaves of the olive tree. Oleuropein and its health benefits can easily be obtained through olive leaf extract supplements.
Health Benefits of Olive Leaf Extract
Here are the health benefits of olive leaf extract.
- Olive leaf extract lowers blood pressure.
- It lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- It improve endothelial dysfunction in part by increasing nitric oxide production.
- It reduces clot formation.
- Olive leaf extract delays digestion and absorption of sugars.
- It increases the uptake of blood sugar into tissues.
- Olive leaf extract inhibits DNA damage through its antioxidant effects.
- It inhibits growth factors necessary for tumor growth.
- It inhibits cancer cells from storing energy from carbohydrates.
- It reduces damage from oxidative stress seen in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
- It suppresses inflammation that leads to an accumulation abnormal proteins that interfere with brain function.
- Olive leaf extract reduces build up of uric acid seen in gout by the exact mechanism of allopurinol (gold standard for gout treatment).
- It reduces inflammatory cytokines seen in both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.
Olive Leaf Extract Studies
Olive leaf extract has been compared in head to head studies with FDA approved medications. Olive leaf extract lowered blood pressure to the same degree as captopril, and ACE inhibitor. Oleuropein functions as a calcium channel blocker and dilates blood vessels.
In laboratory animals olive leaf extract was more effective than Diabeta or glyburide, a commonly used diabetic drug. In the presence of a high fat and high carbohydrate olive leaf extract was shown to improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
It reduces production of matrix metalloproteinases or MMPs. MMPs dissolve the matrix that holds cells together and breaks down the fibrous cap of cholesterol plaque. Break down of this cap triggers an inflammatory leading to acute blood clotting and sudden blockage of blood flow leading to heart attacks. Olive leaf extract prevents this break down.
Side note for women. Oral estrogens increase the production of MMPs in the liver. This is a potential problem for women with existing coronary atherosclerotic heart disease receiving HRT as it can increase the risk of heart attacks. Production of MMPs does not occur with transdermal estrogens.
Production of MMPs is less of a concern for women who start HRT shortly after menopause even if they use oral estrogen as long as they have no existing heart disease. The longer after menopause the more likely a woman will have some heart disease and the more important it becomes to avoid using oral estrogens. Many physicians not specializing in HRT prescribe oral estrogens.
Olive Leaf Extract Dosing
In diabetic studies 500 mg of olive leaf extract once a day was shown to reduce hemoglobin A1C, a 90-120 day indicator of blood sugar control. We recommend 500 mg once a day for the other health benefits as well.
Olive leaf extract will lower systolic blood pressure 11.5 mmHG and diastolic 4.8 mmHG. This is a sizeable reduction. This may necessitate a reduction or even cessation of any prescribed blood pressure medication you may be taking. You need to monitor your blood pressure carefully and we therefore recommend discussing this with your physician before taking olive leaf extract.