Healthy Diet & Nutrition

Why Olives and Olive Oil Help Fight Diabetes and Obesity

A research team at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg discovered that the olive-derived compound oleuropein helps the body secrete more insulin, a central signaling molecule in the body that controls metabolism. The same compound also detoxifies another signaling molecule called amylin that over-produces and forms harmful aggregates in type 2 diabetes. In these two distinct ways, oleuropein helps prevent the onset of disease.

The discovery could help improve understanding of the scientific basis of health benefits of olive products and develop new, low-cost nutraceutical strategies to fight type 2 diabetes and related obesity. The findings were published in September 2017 in the journal Biochemistry as a Rapid Report, which is reserved for timely topics of unusual interest.

A release from Virginia Tech quotes Bin Xu, lead author, assistant professor of biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and a Fralin Life Science Institute affiliate, as saying, “Our work provides new mechanistic insights into the long-standing question of why olive products can be anti- diabetic. We believe it will not only contribute to the biochemistry of the functions of the olive component oleuropein, but also have an impact on the general public to pay more attention to olive products in light of the current diabetes epidemic.”

Next steps include testing the compound in a diabetic animal model and investigation of additional new functions of this compound, or its components, in metabolism and aging.


Xu is also affiliated with the Virginia Tech Center for Drug Discovery.

Co-authors on the paper include Dongmin Liu, a professor of human nutrition, foods, and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Ling Wu, a research scientist in the Department of Biochemistry; and Paul Velander, a doctoral student in the Department of Biochemistry.


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