Olives Show Promise in Treating Diabetes, Obesity

A natural compound found in olives was shown to lower blood sugar levels and promote weight loss in mice. Researchers hope the findings could lead to new diabetes and obesity treatments.

The prevalence of obesity and diabetes in the United States is rising at alarming rates, underscoring the need for new medications.

GLP-1 receptor agonists like Ozempic and Wegovy are highly effective in regulating glucose and suppressing appetite, leading to significant weight loss, but are unaffordable to many and are linked to severe side effects.


The new study findings presented at Nutrition 2024, the flagship annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition could facilitate the development of safe and inexpensive natural products for managing obesity and type 2 diabetes in people.

In the study, researchers began identifying natural compounds that act on L-cells, which contain two metabolic hormones released during a meal. These hormones, called GLP-1 and PYY, promote satiety while also controlling blood sugar levels and metabolism.

Elenolic acid, which is found in mature olives and extra virgin olive oil, was shown to induce the release of these hormones in the gut.

After just one week of receiving oral elenolic acid, obese mice experienced significant weight reduction and better blood sugar regulation than before treatment, compared to obese mice not receiving elenolic acid.

The glucose-lowering effect was comparable with that of diabetic medication liraglutide, a type of GLP receptor agonist, and better than metformin, one of the most common oral medicines for type 2 diabetes.

After four to five weeks of treatment with elenolic acid, the mice showed a 10.7% decrease in obesity as well as blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity similar to those of healthy lean mice. Additionally, the elenolic acid significantly reduced food intake and promoted weight loss.

“Overall, the study showed that elenolic acid from olives has promising effects on hormone release and metabolic health, particularly in obese and diabetic conditions. The compound seems to mimic the physiological conditions of eating to directly promote gut metabolic hormone secretion, which helps regulate energy balance and metabolic health,” research team leader Dongmin Liu, PhD, a professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise at Virginia Tech, said in a statement.

Olives alone won’t treat diabetes


However, the study was conducted in mice, meaning that elenolic acid may not yield the same effects in humans in terms of safety and effectiveness. Even if it does, it may take several years for the new medication to be available to the public.

Moreover, the concentration of elenolic acid in olive oil or olives is very low, so the benefits observed in this study would most likely not be gained from olive products alone.

Therefore, don’t try replacing your obesity or type 2 medications with olives or olive oil, as it may have severe health consequences.

Nevertheless, olives are a nutritious food and a staple of the Mediterranean diet, one of the healthiest in the world. They are packed with monounsaturated fat, fiber, and vitamin E.

Olives are also rich in several phytochemicals that are important for strengthening the immune system and preventing DNA damage, among other functions.


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