Scientists say 'powerhouse' fruit could help combat obesity and diabetes

The compound found in olives was seen to lead to 'significant' improvements in metabolic health
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Olives have been found to contain weight loss properties that could help to combat obesity and keep diabetes at bay, according to a new study.

Researchers have found that elenolic acid, a natural compound found in mature olives and extra virgin olive oil, can lower blood sugar levels and promote weight loss. American scientists discovered in their study involving mice that after one week, obese mice with diabetes that were given oral elenolic acid weighed "significantly" less and showed better blood sugar regulation than before treatment and compared to control obese mice who didn't receive elenolic acid.

The team conducting the study said the glucose-lowering effect was comparable with that of the injectable diabetic medication liraglutide and better than metformin, one of the most common oral medicines for type 2 diabetes. Scientists hope that the research could help pave the way for the development of cheap and safe natural products for managing the condition, Gloucestershire Live reports.

The study revealed that elenolic acid can induce the release of metabolic hormones in the gut, which work to promote fullness and prevent overeating while also controlling blood sugar levels and metabolism. The researchers were able to make elenolic acid by breaking down its precursor oleuropein, which is less expensive than extracting it directly from olives.

Tests of the compound in obese mice with diabetes revealed that mice that received oral elenolic acid experienced "significant" improvements in their metabolic health compared to obese control mice. After four to five weeks of treatment, the mice showed a 10.7% reduction in obesity as well as blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity that were comparable to those of healthy lean mice.

Research team leader Professor Dongmin Liu, of Virginia Tech, said: "Lifestyle modifications and public health measures have had limited impact on the rising prevalence of obesity, one of the top risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Available obesity drugs are ineffective in weight loss maintenance, expensive and/or carry potential long-term safety risks.

"Our goal was to develop safer, cheaper and more convenient multi-targeting agents that can prevent the occurrence of metabolic disorders and type 2 diabetes."

However, the team pointed out that the concentration of elenolic acid in olive oil or olives is very low, so the benefits seen in the study would most likely not be gained from olive products alone. The team is now working to understand how this compound creates metabolic benefits by analysing its journey through the body.

As well as potentially helping to aid weight loss, olives have long been linked to a range of other health benefits as they are packed with beneficial nutrients including vitamin E and antioxidants, described as a "nutritional powerhouse" by the Cleveland Clinic. Olive oil contains oleic acid, which can potentially boost good cholesterol and reduce high blood pressure, helping to improve heart health.