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More adrenalin through olive oil

A diet in which virgin olive oil is the main source of fat is not only healthy because of the beneficial fatty acids that olive oil contains. In a Japanese animal study, the phenols in olive oil raise the metabolic rate because they increase the concentration of adrenalin and noradrenalin, both stimulatory hormones. This may mean that itís easier to maintain your weight if you get more of your dietary fat from olive oil.

If you give test animals olive oil they will spontaneously burn more energy than animals given fat from meat or maize. Olive oil increases the production of UCPs Ė proteins that activate an alternative energy cycle in the mitochondria. As a result more energy is released in the form of heat and less energy is stored as ATP. You could say olive oil is a homeopathic version of DNP.

Olive oil contains about thirty phenols. So does the metabolic effect of olive oil have something to do with this? To find out more the Japanese did an experiment with rats. They were given a high fat diet for four weeks, in which thirty percent of the energy was derived from fats. One group was given maize oil, another olive oil with few phenols, and another group got virgin olive oil containing lots of phenols.

The table below shows the effects of the four-week diet. Weíve omitted the data for the rats that got few phenols: the effects measured for this group were in between those for the maize oil and virgin olive oil group.

The rats that had been fed olive oil had noticeably less fat reserves. And the manufacture of the UCP-1 protein in the brown fat cells was higher in the olive-oil rats. These rats also had increased concentrations of adrenalin and noradrenalin, as the figures below show.

The researchers extracted phenols from the olive oil and then injected the rats with them. Once again the concentrations of adrenalin and noradrenalin rose. For the Japanese this is conclusive evidence that phenols are responsible for the metabolic effect. If they can now work out which phenol is doing the work, they may well have discovered a new component for functional foods or slimming supplements.

J Nutr Biochem. 2007 Oct;18(10):685-92.

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