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Scientists shed light on the health benefits of olive oil

A recent study investigated the association between olive oil and decreased risk of aging-related diseases. 

Olive oil is a primary source of fat in the Mediterranean diet. It consists of monosaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), the healthy fat that lowers cholesterol levels. It is rich in antioxidants, which help prevent cellular damage and decrease the risk of developing chronic diseases, such as cancer.

The Mediterranean diet is known for its wide range of health benefits, which include reducing overall mortality and aging-related diseases. Several studies suggest red wine as the main contributor in promoting the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. This is because red wine contains resveratrol, a compound that activates SIRT1, a cellular pathway associated with extending lifespan and preventing aging-related diseases. However, in a recent study, researchers from the University of Minnesota identified olive oil as the key component in the Mediterranean diet that may contribute to lowering the risk of aging-related diseases and improve lifespan.

In the study, published in Molecular Cell, male mice, aged between six and eight weeks fed either a diet that included olive oil, or a control diet that did not contain olive oil, for twelve weeks. The control diet included soybean oil and lard. At the end of the feeding experiments, the mice were fasted for around sixteen hours before their tissue and serum samples were collected.

The study reports that the fats in olive oil activated the SIRT1 pathway in the cells. These findings suggest that olive oil might play a key role in increasing lifespan and preventing aging-related diseases. According to the researchers, the consumption of olive oil by itself was not enough to gain its health benefits. The findings suggest that the effects of olive oil may be most noticeable when it is consumed in combination with fasting, exercising, and limiting caloric intake.

According to the study author, Dr. Mashek, the fat in olive oil is stored in lipid droplets, microscopic organelles in cells that provide storage for fats. Dr. Mashek suggests that when fat is broken down during fasting or exercising, the effects of the signalling in cells and the health benefits of olive oil are realized.

Future research will involve translating the findings to humans with the aim of discovering new drugs or to tailor dietary regimens that will improve health outcomes in both the short-term and long-term.

Written by Ranjani Sabarinathan, MSc                                                                                      


Najt CP, Khan SA, Heden TD et al. (2020). Lipid Droplet-Derived Monounsaturated Fatty Acids Traffic via PLIN5 to Allosterically Activate SIRT1. Molecular Cell. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2019.12.003

University of Minnesota researchers discover Mediterranean diet ingredient may extend life. (2020, February 21). Retrieved from

Image by Pezibear from Pixabay 



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