A new Spanish study suggests virgin olive oil may help prevent and treat H. pylori infections, which are responsible for millions of cases of gastritis and peptic ulcers each year.
Preliminary laboratory tests show the antioxidant compounds found in virgin olive oil are effective against several strains of H. pylori bacteria, which infects the lining of the stomach. Researchers say these results must now be replicated in humans. But if future studies confirm the findings, incorporating virgin olive oil into your diet may help treat or prevent painful stomach ulcers.
Researchers say previous studies show that other natural products rich in a class of antioxidants known as phenolic compounds — such as red wine, green tea, and cranberry juice — may inhibit the growth of H. pylori. But until now the antibacterial properties of olive oil haven't been evaluated. They say virgin olive oil is unique because it is one of very few edible vegetable oils with high phenolic content.
In the study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers used laboratory experiments to simulate conditions found in the human stomach in order to evaluate olive oil's ability to fight H. pylori bacteria.
Researcher Conception Romero and colleagues of the University Hospital of Valme, in Seville, Spain, found that the healthy phenolic compounds in virgin olive oil remained stable for hours in simulated acidic conditions of the stomach.
These phenolic compounds also had a strong antibacterial effect. The results of the lab studies showed olive oil's phenolic compounds were effective against eight strains of H. pylori, including three that are resistant to some antibiotics.
SOURCE: Romero, C. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Feb. 21, 2007; Vol. 55: pp. 680-686. News release, American Chemical Society.
By Jennifer Warner
Reviewed by Louise Chang, M.D