Olive Oil Compound Extends Lifespan
Olives and olive oil contain a unique compound in the fat that extends lifespan according to recent research.
The Mediterranean Diet has been linked in numerous studies to extend life.
Scientists had previously thought that it was the resveratrol compound – found in some foods such as grapes, peanuts and other foods. Because wine and grapes are often consumed by those who eat a Mediterranean diet, many assumed that resveratrol was the primary compound that led to these benefits.
Yes, resveratrol apparently activates SIRT1 within cells. And this is linked to increased cellular lifespan. But we need a lot of resveratrol to turn the dial according to the research.
It turns out that resveratrol may not be the central anti-aging compound of the Mediterranean diet after all. Furthermore, the amount of resveratrol needed to duplicate the effects found from feeding the compound to mice for these experiments was well beyond the reach of the amounts that wine and other foods can supply.
Olive compound boosts lifespan
A compound in olives may well be the primary anti-aging ingredient. And since olives and olive oil play such a central role of the Mediterranean Diet, this may be a primary benefit of the Med Diet.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota (Najt et al. 2020) have discovered the key ingredient in the Mediterranean diet that apparently boosts lifespan.
Doug Mashek, PhD, a professor in the Departments of Medicine and Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics, and his research associates found that a compound found in the fatty acids in olive oil modulates the SIRT1 enzyme.
The monounsaturated fats in olives and olive oil activates the SIRT1 via a protein called Perilipin 5 (also abbreviated as PLIN5).
Dr. Mashek commented about the process by which they discovered this:
“We didn’t start out by studying the Mediterranean diet; we first were focusing on fat. This fat is known to be protective against heart disease and many other aging-related diseases, so by identifying this pathway, it provides a new way of thinking about how consuming olive oil and the Mediterranean diet is actually linked to positive health benefits.”
When the fats within olives are hydrolyzed – called lipolysis – they activate SIRT1 which stimulates the mitochondria within our cells. Mitochondria are the energy producers within our cells.
What is SIRT1?
SIRT1 stands for sirtuin 1, which is an abbreviation for “silent mating type information regulation 2 homolog.”
It is an enzyme that converts proteins into compounds that help the cells adapt to stress. These SIRT1-activated compounds also help cells live longer. SIRT1 also allows the body’s macrophages to renew themselves easier (Imperatore et al. 2017).
Macrophages help the immune system destroy toxins.
This enzyme was first found in the yeasts Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In yeasts, the compound is called SIR1. A similar protein (homolog) is found in animals and humans and is called SIRT1.
Why is olive oil so healthy?
Research has found that olives contain a type of monounsaturated fatty acid called oleic acid. This type of fatty acid has been found in multiple studies to reduce body weight, body fat content and tissue content.
In a 2020 review of research (Tutunchi et al. 2020), 28 clinical trials were analyzed. The research found that diets rich in oleic acids (rich in olives and olive oil) reduced body weight, body mass and abdominal fat.
Other studies have found that oleic acids change levels of insulin resistance. For example a study from Spain’s University of Valladolid (de Luis et al. 2017) studied 361 obese adults. They split the group into two diets. They found the monounsaturated fat diet triggered weight loss and lower LDL-cholesterol among the group. It also significantly reduced insulin levels and insulin resistance.
Still other research has shown that olive oil has other benefits, including lowering blood pressure, reducing inflammation, helping prevent stokes and helping to prevent cancer. As researchers from Spain’s Epidemiology Research Programme (Buckland and Gonzalez 2015) put it:
“These health benefits are supported by strong mechanistic evidence from experimental studies, demonstrating that specific components of olive oil have antihypertensive, antithrombotic, antioxidant, antiinflammatory and anticarcinogenic action.”
The Med Diet is also very healthy
As mentioned, olives and olive oil play a key role in the Med Diet. We have published several papers on the effects of the Mediterranean Diet. These include the fact that the Med Diet reduces cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. The Med Diet also reduces heart disease risk according to the research.
Now we see the connection with olives and olive oil. Olive oil has been found to benefit diabetes. It also reduces Alzheimer’s risk and reduces the risk of cancer.
Pass the olive oil please.
Najt CP, Khan SA, Heden TD, Witthuhn A, Perez M, Heier JL, Mead LE, Franklin MP, Karanja KK, Graham MJ, Mashek MT, Bernlohr DA, Parker L, Chow LS, Mashek DG. Lipid Droplet-Derived Monounsaturated Fatty Acids Traffic via PLIN5 to Allosterically Activate SIRT1. Mol Cell. 2020 Feb 20;77(4):810-824.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2019.12.003.
Tutunchi H, Ostadrahimi A, Saghafi-Asl M. The Effects of Diets Enriched in Monounsaturated Oleic Acid on the Management and Prevention of Obesity: a Systematic Review of Human Intervention Studies. Adv Nutr. 2020 Mar 5. pii: nmaa013. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmaa013.
de Luis DA, Romero E, Izaola O, Primo D, Aller R. Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Insulin Resistance after Two Hypocaloric Diets with Different Fat Distribution in Obese Subjects: Effect of the rs10767664 Gene Variant in Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. J Nutrigenet Nutrigenomics. 2017;10(5-6):163-171. doi: 10.1159/000485248.
Imperatore F, Maurizio J, Vargas Aguilar S, Busch CJ, Favret J, Kowenz-Leutz E, Cathou W, Gentek R, Perrin P, Leutz A, Berruyer C, Sieweke MH. SIRT1 regulates macrophage self-renewal. EMBO J. 2017 Aug 15;36(16):2353-2372. doi: 10.15252/embj.201695737.
Buckland G, Gonzalez CA. The role of olive oil in disease prevention: a focus on the recent epidemiological evidence from cohort studies and dietary intervention trials. Br J Nutr. 2015 Apr;113 Suppl 2:S94-101. doi: 10.1017/S0007114514003936.