Olive Oil and Infection


Dozens of phenolic compounds have been identified in extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), each with their own unique health benefits. One of the benefits of these compounds is they have high bioavailability, extensive research reporting the anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiviral properties obtained from these compounds.

Infections or infectious diseases are caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi and various other disease causing agents. Once an infection is contracted, the human body relies on the immune system to fight the infection through a range of cellular, inflammatory, and immune reactions. Although there are medications to treat infection, naturally derived food sources such as EVOO also show promise in preventing and treating infection also.

Early in vitro studies showed that several polyphenols in olive oil have antibacterial properties against human pathogens, particularly oleuropein, tyrosol, and hydroxytyrosol. In a 5 minute room temperature test, hydroxytyrosol, and tyrosol decreased the activity of Listeria monocytogenes, the bacteria contracted from contaminated food that causes the bacterial infection known as Listeriosis.

Decarboxymethyl elenolic acid (EDA), p-HPEA-EDA, and 3,4-DHPEA-EDA have been shown to have greater antimicrobial activity than the commercial disinfectants glutaraldehyde and ortho- phthalaldehyde. The phenolic compound oleocanthal has been shown to inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori bacteria, a bacteria associated with peptic ulcer and gastric cancer development.

Hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein have been shown to have antiviral activity in a dose-dependent manner. They were shown to inhibit the main viral fusing protein in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 target cells. Hydroxytyrosol has been shown to disrupt the influenza virus. Oleuropein has been shown to have anti-hepatitis B activity.

Although all of the above benefits have been discovered, these effects have only been demonstrated through in vitro studies at this stage. However, there have also been several animal and human studies that do show the benefits of EVOO for infection. More