Research on the health benefits of eating olives combined with new manufacturing techniques has resulted in a new product that allows developers to unleash the advantages of this pitted fruit in other products.

The “Mediterranean Diet” was first popularized by Dr. Ancel Keys who, while living in Southern Italy in the 1950s, came to the realization that mortality from coronary heart disease was very low in the region. But according to a publication titled “Mediterranean Diets” by A.P. Siomopoulos and F. Visioli (eds.), there is a misconception that there is only one Mediterranean diet. In fact, Mediterranean diets include any that encourage high consumption of plant foods rich in antioxidants and rely on olive oil as the principal or exclusive source of fat. It is easy to see why Mediterranean diets have tremendous appeal to Americans who are increasingly exposed to research and recommendations that advocate eating antioxidant-containing plant foods instead of trans-fatty acids.

Research continues to unveil a variety of significant health benefits associated with eating olives. Those benefits include reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and improving joint health. Among the active substances in olives, there are 30 or more polyphenols. One principal polyphenol is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substance called hydroxytyrosol. In The Perricone Prescription by Nicholas Perricone, daily ingestion of olive oil is recommended, and hydroxytyrosol is described as a rare and potent protective antioxidant that can slow the aging process in the skin by stabilizing cell plasma membrane.

DSM Nutritional Products is helping food companies capture the potential of olives in functional food formulations with a natural, low-calorie, patented product containing hydroxytyrosol, called HIDROX® (a trademark of CreAgri Inc.). Until recently, there was no viable industrial method of extracting hydroxytyrosol from olives. HIDROX is created using specialized milling practices and processing techniques of the aqueous portion of olive oil which releases and stabilizes hydroxytyrosol from its precursor, oleuropein.

Some of the most recent findings by Bitler, et al. (2005) show that the anti-inflammatory properties in HIDROX may help promote joint health. When tested on mice, it inhibited the production of tumor necrosis factor-alpha, an important cytokine in the inflammatory process. Furthermore, a combination of HIDROX and glucosamine was found to act synergistically in reducing inflammation.

HIDROX is GRAS self affirmed for a variety of food and beverage categories, and its strong antioxidant profile makes it a very interesting ingredient for the functional foods.

As consumers increasingly seek out healthier food options, HIDROX offers food manufacturers an opportunity to incorporate the benefits of olives and the Mediterranean diets into a greater variety of products. NS