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Polyphenol-rich olive oil blazes trail in functional foods market with OxLDL cardio health message

By Elaine Watson , 11-Jul-2012
Last updated the 11-Jul-2012 at 15:02 GMT

OxLDL levels are seen by many scientists as a more useful predictor of risk for developing cardiovascular disease than total cholesterol or LDL-cholesterol
OxLDL levels are seen by many scientists as a more useful predictor of risk for developing cardiovascular disease than total cholesterol or LDL-cholesterol

The creators of OliveHeart, a novel polyphenol-rich extra virgin olive oil claimed to help reduce oxidized LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol - a key risk factor for atherosclerosis - are promising to turn the ultra-traditional olive oil market on its head.

While many consumers believe olive oil is healthy owing to its association with the Mediterranean diet, it is not really seen as a ‘functional food’, a spokesman for Spanish firm Olive Innovations told NutraIngredients-USA.

However, OliveHeart, which contains unusually high levels of olive oil polyphenols, builds its formulation and marketing around a positive opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on cardiovascular health.

EFSA concluded that a cause and effect relationship had been established between the consumption of olive oil polyphenols - standardized by the content of hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives - and protection of LDL particles from oxidative damage.

The consequences of LDL oxidation will be dramatic to our health

As the oxidation of LDL leads to a series of events that result in fatty streaks in artery tissue, which in turn morph into arterial plaques, OxLDL levels are seen by many scientists as a more useful predictor of risk for developing heart disease than total cholesterol or LDL-cholesterol, said the Olive Innovations spokesman.

And while consumers might not have got their heads around this quite yet, he said, they would over time, he predicted.

“When LDL-ox is a parameter in routine blood analysis this claim will be more common for consumers.

“[People will begin to realise that] it is not really so important the level of LDL in our arteries, but how this cholesterol is oxidized and modified. The consequences of such oxidation will be dramatic to our health.”

He added: “EFSA indicates that the claim may be used for olive oil which contains at least 5 mg of hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives per 20g of olive oil.”

‘A real novelty in the olive oil and functional foods area’

By homing in on this message, OliveHeart represents “a real novelty in the olive oil and functional foods area”, he claimed.

The olive oil industry is very traditional and has never used labels to show a real and specific health benefit to consumers. They usually claim organic origin, Mediterranean diet and so on..."

High polyphenol content - without the bitterness

But he added: “We are now saying why extra virgin olive oil is healthy and not only because of the oleic acid, which is also present in other vegetable sources.

“Virgin olive oil is a juice from a fruit. Most olive oils sold in markets are refined oils with a small percentage of virgin in them.

“We defend the virgin olive oil with the highest polyphenol levels naturally, not added. OliveHeart consists of a extra virgin olive oil with a naturally high level of olive polyphenols by combining different varieties, modulating the level of polyphenols and controlling bitterness.”

We will be starting in markets like the US and Japan

OliveHeart, which is packaged in glass bottles and individual dose packs for traveling, is being offered worldwide, he said.

“We will be starting in markets like the US and Japan. China is a big market and the Chinese are increasing their interest in high quality healthy products, and others like Indonesia, Taiwan and some more little like SouthAfrica. North of Europe is also a key market.

“We are creating a network of agents and distributors worldwide and for the moment results are great mainly because the taste is really nice and this is key to convince consumers to demand a product for their health.”

Our philosophy is to offer customers something completely new

Olive Innovations founder Jeronimo Díaz Jr added: “Our main markets are the non-Mediterranean countries, although we are realizing that producer countries are also looking for oils with high levels of polyphenols, but without excessive bitterness.

“We will sell through leading distributors in every market, to retail/consumers. In some markets it could found in supermarkets or gourmet shops; in others in pharmacies.

“Our philosophy is to offer customers something completely new.”

OliveHeart was developed by Olive Innovations, a group of olive oil industry executives and researchers based in Spain with more than 30 years of experience in the olive industry.

Click here for more details.

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