virgin olive oil

Researchers in Spain examined the effects of virgin olive oil or butter on the gut microbiome and metabolic disease in mice.

Over the years, research has shown that dietary fat intake plays an important role in determining someone’s cardiovascular risk and the risk of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is the occurrence of a group of conditions including abnormal cholesterol, increased body fat around the waist, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure. Metabolic syndrome is a risk factor for other serious complications such as stroke and diabetes.

Many studies have demonstrated that diet strongly influences the type of microorganisms (such as fungi, bacteria, viruses) that live within a person’s gut. Virgin olive oil is the main source of fat in a Mediterranean diet; researchers tend to agree that a link exists between following a Mediterranean diet and a decreased frequency of metabolic syndrome. Some researchers have proposed that consuming a Mediterranean diet high in virgin olive oil might be useful in managing symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome and other diseases that involve chronic inflammation. The relationship between virgin olive oil consumption, stomach microorganisms, and factors related to metabolic syndrome has never been proven.

Researchers in Spain fed one group of mice a diet high in butter, and another group a diet high in virgin olive oil. The researchers then compared the effects of each diet on the microorganisms within the stomachs of the mice and published their results in the journal PLoS ONE.

Virgin Olive Oil had a Positive Impact on the Gut Microbiome

The results indicated that there was an association between the type of fat consumed and the microbiota of the mice. The microbiota of the mice fed the virgin olive oil contained more healthy and positive microorganisms than did the microbiota of the mice fed the butter.

There were many positive results as well when the researchers analysed the mice for markers of metabolic syndrome. The results showed that systolic blood pressure was significantly higher in the mice who consumed the butter-enriched diet and ultimately the mice fed the butter-enriched diet demonstrated signs that were suggestive of metabolic syndrome (such as increased body weights, blood pressure, and insulin levels) when compared to the virgin olive oil group.

This group of researchers successfully demonstrated a positive relationship between particular kinds of stomach microorganisms present when a diet high in butter was consumed and factors related to metabolic syndrome including body weight and blood pressure among others.  This study suggests that some of the well known positive health benefits of virgin olive oil may be due to its impact on the gut microbiome.

Written by Melissa Booker

Reference: Prieto, I., Hidalgo, M., Segarra, A. B., Martínez-Rodríguez, A. M., Cobo, A., Ramírez, M., … Martínez-Cañamero, M. (2018). Influence of a diet enriched with virgin olive oil or butter on mouse gut microbiota and its correlation to physiological and biochemical parameters related to metabolic syndrome. PLoS ONE, 13(1), 1–20. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0190368

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