Olives and osteoarthritis | A flavorful anti-inflammatory

Marion Hauser Curcumin and osteoarthritisMarion Hauser, MS, RD

In this article, we will examine the research surrounding the ability of olives and their components in alleviating and possibly helping to reverse the symptoms and degenerative aspects of osteoarthritis.

Japanese university researchers writing in the Journal of clinical biochemistry and nutrition, are among the many researchers who have recently published papers on the benefits of olives as an anti-inflammatory.

Here is what they wrote:

  • Consumption of olives is associated with a low incidence of inflammation-related diseases.
  • Olives are rich in bioactive pentacyclic triterpenoids (plant anti-inflammatory substances), mainly maslinic acid.

In their study, the Japanese research team, using a  randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled trial, examined the effects of an orally administered maslinic acid supplement, olive fruit extract, on 20 middle-aged and elderly volunteers with mild knee joint pain.

  • The average age of the study patient was 58 years old
  • Each patient received either olive fruit extract, containing 50 mg maslinic acid (n = 12), or placebo (n = 8) daily for 12 weeks and evaluated for pain and physical functions as primary outcome measures.
    • Secondary outcome measures included body composition and inflammatory biomarkers in serum.
  • Although both groups exhibited improved pain (based on standard pain scoring systems) and quality of life after supplementation, symptoms were better in the maslinic acid group than in the placebo group.
  • After 12 weeks, maslinic acid group exhibited significant decrease in body weight and body mass index suggesting that maslinic acid affected the weight of volunteers with mild knee joint pain.

The team concluded that olive products containing maslinic acid may be useful as a new preventive and therapeutic food ingredient for arthritic diseases.(1)

Members of the same research team went even a step further. A year after the above study, which was published in 2016, they released more evidence about the pain alleviating and anti-aging effects of maslinic acid in the elderly. Note: Maslinic acid is sold in certain skin cream products.

In this second study, also published in the Journal of clinical biochemistry and nutrition, the researchers investigated the effects of a Maslinic acid containing product (30 mg Maslinic acid), on 29 elderly residents (average age 70).

They found that  long-term daily use of Maslinic acid products such as olive fruit may be useful for maintaining good health, health care, fall-prevention, and Quality-of-Life improvement for the elderly.(2)

Olives offer protection and repair effects on damaged cartilage

In September 2017, University researchers in Malaysia writing international journal Nutrients found that olive and its derivatives show potential in preventing cartilage damage due to osteoarthritis and this is attributed to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Specifically, hydroxytyrosol (a plant-based or phytochemical compound with anti-inflammatory properties) modulate the SIRT-1 gene (a pro-inflammatory protein that breaks down tissue) to improve autophagy  (autophagy is the system of tissue breakdown. It recycles damages cells and components to use in repair) and survival of chondrocytes (cartilage cell matrix).

The Malaysian team suggests that olive and its derivatives by themselves, or in combination with other approaches like physical activity, could be used to retard the progression of osteoarthritis in individuals at risk.(3)

Olives offer protection and repair effects on bone

Dr. Kok Yong Chin, who is cited in the cartilage research study, also performed a similar study on the impact of olives on bone regeneration. In the July 2016 edition of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, his team wrote:

  • Consumption of olives, olive oil and olive polyphenols have been shown to improve bone health.
  • Animal studies showed that supplementation of olives, olive oil or olive polyphenols could improve skeletal health assessed via bone mineral density, bone biomechanical strength, and bone turnover markers.
  • The beneficial effects of olive oil and olive polyphenols could be attributed to their ability to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.
  • Cellular studies demonstrated that olive polyphenols enhanced proliferation of pre-osteoblasts (bone forming precursors), differentiation of osteoblasts (growth of bone cells) and decreased the formation of osteoclast-like cells Mutated cells that destroy bone, often found in cancer patients).
  • Human studies revealed that daily consumption of olive oil could prevent the decline in bone mineral density and improve bone turnover markers. As a conclusion, olives, olive oil, and its polyphenols are potential dietary interventions to prevent osteoporosis among the elderly.(4)

So there you have it, the benefits of olives:

  • Supports bone health
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Anti-oxidant
  • Tastes good

Olives and osteoarthritis

1 Fukumitsu S, Villareal MO, Aida K, Hino A, Hori N, Isoda H, Naito Y. Maslinic acid in olive fruit alleviates mild knee joint pain and improves quality of life by promoting weight loss in the elderly. Journal of clinical biochemistry and nutrition. 2016;59(3):220-5. [Google Scholar]

2 Fukumitsu S, Kinoshita T, Villareal MO, Aida K, Hino A, Isoda H. Maslinic acid improves quality of life by alleviating joint knee pain in the elderly: results from a community-based pilot study. Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition. 2017:16-19.  [Google Scholar]

3 Chin KY, Pang KL. Therapeutic Effects of Olive and Its Derivatives on Osteoarthritis: From Bench to Bedside. Nutrients. 2017 Sep 26;9(10):1060.  [Google Scholar]

4. Chin KY, Ima-Nirwana S. Olives and bone: a green osteoporosis prevention option. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2016 Jul 26;13(8):755.  [Google Scholar]

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