A US study has shown that extra-virgin olive oil has a similar effect to the anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen, in reducing pain and morning stiffness among rheumatoid arthritis patients.
The study, from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, demonstrated how four teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil taken daily for 12 weeks reduced pain. The team reported that the key to olive oil's effectiveness was oleocanthoal.
The abstract from the study states:
"Newly pressed extra-virgin olive oil contains oleocanthal - a compound whose pungency induces a strong stinging sensation in the throat, not unlike that caused by solutions of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen1. We show here that this similar perception seems to be an indicator of a shared pharmacological activity, with oleocanthal acting as a natural anti-inflammatory compound that has a potency and profile strikingly similar to that of ibuprofen. Although structurally dissimilar, both these molecules inhibit the same cyclooxygenase enzymes in the prostaglandin-biosynthesis pathway."
Beauchamp G K, Keast R S J, Morel, D, Lin J, Pika J, Han Q, Lee C H, Smith A B, Breslin P A S, Phytochemistry: Ibuprofen-like activity in extra-virgin olive oil, Nature 437, 45-46 (1 September 2005)
Simply put, oleocanthol, the substance isolated from extra-virgin olive oil, and ibuprofen have the same beneficial effect on inflammation. However, the similarity ends there. Ibuprofen has been shown to promote bleeding and gastrointestinal damage, while olive oil does not, and extra-virgin olive oil can actually be good for you.
Ibruprofen Can Cause blood Loss
A study from Canada showed that daily ibuprofen use may produce a dangerous level of blood loss in healthy people. This is alarming as ibuprofen is considered the safest of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs!
The study analyzed the results of two placebo-controlled trials, where one group received 800 mg of ibuprofen three times each day, and the other group took a placebo. For one week before the study, and during the four-week study period, blood loss was determined with radioactive analysis that identified red blood cells in stool samples.
The results showed that average overall blood loss among those in the ibuprofen group was more than three and a half times higher than the placebo group. And whats more, blood loss in the ibuprofen group ranged from 1/5 of a cup to an entire cup in just four weeks.
A 2,400 mg daily dose of ibuprofen is considered quite high, especially when taken for an extended period. But a dose this size is not uncommon among arthritis patients and others who suffer chronic pain. In fact, because of ibuprofen's reputation for safety, many patients take the drug along with other painkillers.
The details of this study are:
Hunt R H, Bowen B, Mortensen E R, Simon T J,James C, Cagliola A, Quan H, Bolognese J A. A randomized trial measuring fecal blood loss after treatment with rofecoxib, ibuprofen, or placebo in healthy subjects. 2000 The American Journal of medicine Volume 109, Issue 3, Pages 201-206
Benefits Of Olive Oil
Numerous studies have shown the health benefits of olive oil, especially extra-virgin olive oil (this is made from the first pressing of cold olives). One study reported that virgin olive oil contains high levels of Vitamin E and phenols. Phenols contain flavonoids - biologically active compounds that are remarkably high in antioxidants. The study concluded that virgin olive oil may inhibit the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Gimeno E, Fitó M, Lamuela-Raventós R M, Castellote A I, Covas M, Farré M,Torre-Boronat M C, López-Sabater M C. Effect of ingestion of virgin olive oil on human low-density lipoprotein composition. 2002, European Journal of Clinical nutrition, Volume 56, No 2, P 114-120
Another study found that "...the Mediterranean diet reduces the incidence of coronary heart disease partially due to the protective role of its phenolic components, including those of extra virgin olive oil."
Bogani P, Galli C, Villa M, Visioli F. Postprandial anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of extra virgin olive oil. Department of Pharmacological Sciences, 2007 Jan ;190(1):181-6