“These results open the possibility of considering extra virgin olive oil a chemoprotective agent for peptic ulcer or gastric cancer,” said lead author, Concepcion Romero. “But this bioactivity must be confirmed in vivo in the future.”
The study, conducted by researchers from the Spanish Institute de la Grasa and the University Hospital of Valme, was not carried out on live patients, but rather, tested the effects of extra virgin olive oil on the Helicobacter pylori bacteria in a simulated gastric environment.
Under these simulated conditions, researchers demonstrated that the polyphenols found in olive oil remain stable for hours in the stomach following ingestion, and that they have a strong anti-bacterial effect on 8 strains of H. pylori, including three strains that are antibiotic-resistant.
H. pylori is the only known bacteria that can survive the acidic conditions of the stomach. Infection by the bacteria can lead to stomach cancer and ulcers.
The antibacterial action of olive oil polyphenols was shown to be so potent that only the most diluted extract (one percent) had no significant effect on the bacteria.
“In view of the low concentration required to exert bactericidal action against H. pylori by the dialdehydic form of ligstroside aglycon, it is promising to carry out studies in vivo with extra virgin olive oil to prevent and control peptic ulcers and gastric cancer caused by this bacteria,” said the researchers.
Studies conducted on extra virgin olive oil in the past have shown the Mediterranean staple to decrease the incidence of some cancers as well as cardiovascular disease.