Special edition: New trends in heart healthy foods

All olive oils are not created equal, says firm seeking to break new ground in cardio health with OxLDL message

By Elaine WATSON

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Olive oil

Olive Innovations: 'The olive oil industry is very traditional and has never really used labels to show a real and specific health benefit to consumers'
Olive Innovations: 'The olive oil industry is very traditional and has never really used labels to show a real and specific health benefit to consumers'
All olive oils are not created equal, claims one firm hoping to shake up the ultra-traditional olive oil market with a new polyphenol-packed product. But it’s not just about the difference between extra-virgin and refined varieties.

What many people may not realize, claims Olive Innovations founder Jeronimo Díaz Jr, is that most olive oil on supermarket shelves - including the extra virgin variety - “is made from over-ripe olive fruits, so has low levels of polyphenols​ [the component of olives believed to confer their key health benefits].”

To address this issue, Olive Innovations, a group of olive oil industry executives and researchers based in Spain, is hoping to break new ground with OliveHeart, an extra virgin olive oil that contains unusually high levels of polyphenols - without the bitterness.

Most extra virgin olive oils do not have the level of polyphenols required by EFSA

Oilve-heart-olives

And its take home message? That it can reduce levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol - a biomarker regarded by many as a more useful predictor of risk for heart disease than total or LDL-cholesterol, Díaz told FoodNavigator-USA.

While many consumers believe olive oil is healthy, it is not really seen as a ‘functional food’, he said.

But OliveHeart is overtly marketed on a functional platform and 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 world of olive oil needs to re-organize and think about this

He adds: “Consumers must know that most extra virgin olive oils do not have the level of polyphenols required by EFSA ​[the olive oil must contains at least 5 mg of hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives per 20g of oil].”

“This is because olive fruits used are too ripe, they are not correctly processed and stored, packaging is not correct, and the shelf life of bottles is too long.

“The world of olive oil needs to re-organize and think about this.

“This will take time and it will be very difficult because to have more polyphenols means to have lower yields of oil when milling the olive fruit, and farmers will not be willing to do this unless the market price justifies the losses in yield.”

OxLDL message: EFSA did a good job, but now it is the time for industry to explain it to consumers

oliveheart-olive-innovations
OliveHeart is doing well in the Spanish market in the pharmacy channel

However, “OliveHeart anticipated all this”,​ he claimed.

“It is a product with a solid background of research, high level of polyphenols, a different way of processing and storing, a different shelf life and packaging, and a completely different image from other olive oils, focused on heart health.

“This is why it is being offered first in pharmacies, because it must be perceived as healthy and consumers must know why. EFSA did a good job, but now it is the time for suppliers to contribute to consumer understanding and choice.”

He added: “Industry only focuses on the reduction of LDL cholesterol…We do not realize that the cholesterol will be always in our body, because we produce it and takes part in fundamental mechanisms of our body. But we need to protect it from oxidation.

Not only in our opinion, but heart professionals agree that people suffering from hypercholesterolemia should consume products like OliveHeart ​because the mechanism is complementary.

“You can have statins to diminish your cholesterol, but you should try to prevent oxidation in a natural way.”

Commercial roll-out

OliveHeart, which is packaged in 250ml glass bottles and individual 10ml dose packs for traveling, is currently only available in the pharmacy channel in Europe, but the firm is now in talks with potential US distributors, says Díaz.

“The acceptance has been better than expected and first results in sales are very positive.”

He added: “Very soon we will also formalize an agreement with a health association which will promote the consumption of olive oil polyphenols, especially to those with high LDL.”

Click here​ to read about suppliers of olive polyphenols to the food and beverage industry.

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1 comment

oversimplification

Posted by Richard G.,

Extra virgin olive oils MAY be low in polyphenols for the reasons mentioned, but there are some beautifully made, wonderfully fresh olive oils that are low in polyphenols simply because of the variety and the prevailing climatic conditions. It's a bit like saying, lets ban all white wines because they don't contain much of the heart healthy phenolic resveratrol (which is primarily found in reds). Not everyone eats olive oil because it is medicinal. I use it because I love the taste, and well made lower polyphenol oils have their place in the kitchen. They have a great olively flavour without excessive bitterness which can clash with many foods. And no, I am not a producer of lower polyphenol olive oils, so unlike the instigators of this article, I don't have anything to gain by promoting one style of extra virgin olive oil over another.

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