Many of us know that olives and olive oil are known to be great additions in one’s diet. Along with high antioxidant content and healthy fats, they are known to be full of dietary fibre. But turns out that even olive leaves are great for health, if a new study is anything to go by. Published in the American Journal of Plant Sciences, the study suggested that olive leaf extracts could play a role in treating type 2 diabetes by helping to balance blood sugar.
Led by professor Abdurrahim Koçyigit from Istanbul’s Fatih Sultan Mehmet University, the study discovered that the leaves had antimicrobial, antihypertensive and anti-inflammatory properties, and their antihyperglycemic benefits were stronger when in extract form rather than brewed as a tea.
According to Koçyigit, although people with type 2 diabetes generally have higher than normal insulin levels most of the time, they also display high blood sugar levels. He attributed this to a lack of insulin receptors which prevents glucose from entering cells and being metabolised.
Koçyigit suggested that polyphenols sourced from olive leaves can increase insulin sensitivity and activity, as well as improving pancreatic responsiveness to assist the body in metabolising sugar in a better way.
For the study, mature olives leaves were collected in the western province of Tekirdag and a cell culture study on them for a year was conducted. The researchers tried different kinds of extraction methods in the study, from boiling and cold-pressing the leaves to soaking them in an alcohol solution. They came to the conclusion that using methanol was the most effective as it delivered the most concentrated and standardised form of oleuropein (a polyphenol and compound that gives olives that bitter, spicy flavour) and was highly stable.
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Koçyigit explained that they worked with doctors actively monitoring which medicines and supplements patients were choosing to take for their health issues, and found that diabetes patients had a preference toward olive leaves, and consumed them in a variety of ways. Despite the number of patients that felt the leaves did not help with their diabetes being relatively low, they still saw other health benefits, he added.
Underscoring that insulin needs these receptors to get glucose into the cell, Koçyigit said these receptors drastically decreased in people who live sedentary lives or are overweight. A lack of receptors prevents glucose from entering the cell, and thus, it cannot be metabolised, he added.
However, the study pointed out that for maximum effect, it is essential to get the correct dosage, which will be determined after trials on animals and humans.
The researchers also cautioned that consuming too much of the extract could potentially bring more harm than good.
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