An extract from extra-virgin olive oil may stimulate the function of mitochondria in cells, and prevent diseases associated with dysfunction like diabetes and obesity, says a new study.

Results of a cell study indicate that hydroxytyrosol may influence gene expression, which would influence mitochondrial function. The mitochondria are the ‘power plants’ of the cell, generating chemical energy by producing adenosince triphosphate (ATP), the body’s ‘energy currency’.

“We collaborated with DSM Nutritional Products in Switzerland and investigated effects of hydroxytyrosol that stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis and promote mitochondrial function in [fat cells],” Dr Jiankang Liu, corresponding author of the study, told NutraIngredients.

“Because mitochondrial loss and dysfunction are closely related with obesity and diabetes, these results suggest that supplement with olive oil and/or hydroxytyrosol may have beneficial effect on preventing obesity and diabetes,” he added.

The results are published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

Med diet benefits
“As is known very well, the Mediterranean diet has been associated with a lower incidence of certain cancers and of cardiovascular disease, which is the most common and serious complication of diabetes,” Dr Liu, from the University of Kentucky and the Jiaotong University School of Life Science in Xi’an, told this website.

“Olive oil is the principal source of fats in the Mediterranean diet, and hydroxytyrosol is considered to be one of the most potent determinants of its efficacy.

“We hypothesised that the Mediterranean diet or supplementation with HT could stimulate mitochondrial function and prevent diabetes and obesity-related mitochondrial dysfunction, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease,” he added.

Study details
Using mouse-derived fat cells (adipocytes), the researchers tested the effects of different concentrations of hydroxytyrosol (DSM Nutritional Products), ranging from 0.1 to 10 micromoles per litre, on the expression of proteins linked to mitochondrial function.

“In the present study, we showed that hydroxytyrosol over the concentration range of 0.1-10 micromoles per litre stimulated the protein expression of [peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) coactivator 1 alpha (PPARGC1-alpha)] – the central factor for mitochondrial biogenesis,” wrote the researchers.

“We showed that hydroxytyrosol is a nutrient that effectively stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis and function,” they added.

“This mitochondrial targeting property may provide a possible mechanism for the efficacy of the Mediterranean diet for lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and also suggests that hydroxytyrosol may be used as a therapeutic intervention for preventing type-2 diabetes and obesity,” they concluded.

The study was funded by a UC Davis Center for Human and Nutrition Pilot Award and by DSM Nutritional Products.

Source: Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry Published ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2009.03.012“Hydroxytyrosol promotes mitochondrial biogenesis and mitochondrial function in 3T3-L1 adipocytes.”Authors: J. Hao, W. Shen, G. Yu, H. Jia, X. Li, Z. Feng, Y. Wang, P. Weber, K. Wertz, E. Sharman, J. Liu

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