Photo of an olive oil bottle
The punnget scent of olive oil has therapeutic benefits, say scientists [Image: Bluescreen - Morguefile]

Scientists tap into the ‘aromatherapeutic’ potential of olive oil

21 March, 2013

Natural Health News — Many people are choosing low fat food products in an attempt to lose weight, or at least in the hope that they will not gain any pounds.

But the jury is out on whether these food products really are effective, since while it is true that they contain fewer calories, people tend to overcompensate by eating more if they do not feel full. What is more there is evidence that zero calorie fake fats, like olestra, can actually lead to weight gain.

Now the findings of a new study, released ahead of publication, has reinforced how important “natural” oils and fats are to regulating the sensation of feeling full after eating, with olive oil leading the way.

German scientists studied four different edible fats and oils: Lard, butterfat, rapeseed oil and olive oil. Over a period of three months, the study participants ate 500 grams of low-fat yoghurt enriched with one of the four fats or oils every day – as a supplement to their normal diet.

“Olive oil had the biggest satiety effect,” reports lead researcher Prof. Peter Schieberle. “The olive oil group showed a higher concentration of the satiety hormone serotonin in their blood. Subjectively speaking, these participants also reported that they found the olive oil yoghurt very filling.”

During the study period, no member of this group recorded an increase in their body fat percentage or their weight.

Aroma is the key

“The findings surprised us,” admits Schieberle, “because rapeseed oil and olive oil contain similar fatty acids.”

So the researchers decided to turn their attention to a completely different type of substance – the aroma compounds in olive oil. In the second part of the study, one group was given yoghurt with olive oil aroma extracts and a control group was given plain yoghurt.

The results were conclusive: The olive oil group’s calorie intake remained the same, but the control group ended up consuming an extra 176 calories per day.

Schieberle explains: “The aroma group adapted their eating habits – but the control group participants were obviously not able to do likewise. We also found that in comparison to the other group, the control group had less of the satiety hormone serotonin in their blood.”

Balancing blood sugar levels

How long the feeling of satiety lasts after eating depends on a number of factors, but blood sugar level is particularly significant.

The faster it falls, the sooner the person will start to feel hungry again. In the next part of their study, the researchers investigated which of the aroma substances present in the oil are most effective at inhibiting glucose absorption.

The researchers used olive oils from Spain, Greece, Italy and Australia for their study. The research team managed to identify two substances that reduce the absorption of glucose from the blood in liver cells: Hexanal and E2-Hexenal. They also discovered that Italian olive oil contained larger amounts of the two aroma compounds.

The researchers say, that off the back of their discoveries, they are looking to develop effective reduced-fat food products that are nonetheless satiating.

However, it should be noted that using a good quality olive oil in your daily diet, rather than taking a pill, is rich in antioxidants and has other benefits such as cutting the risk of heart attack and stroke, protecting the pancreas and helping to boost fertility. Olive and other healthy oils also help us to absorb vital fat-soluble vitamins from our food.