October 06, 2005
Gary Beauchamp and other chemists published a September 1, 2005 article in Nature which links the compound in olive oil which causes throat irritation with anti-inflammatory compounds such as ibuprofen.
Anti-inflammatory medications inhibit cyclooxygenase enzymes in the prostaglandin pathway. Oleocanthal, the pungent compound in some oils which creates a stinging sensation in the throat seems to work on the same pathway.
Gary noticed the similar effect of ibuprofen, which he had been studying, and olive oil while on an olive oil and wine tasting vacation. Studies later showed that oleocanthal has anti-inflammatory properties. The amount of oleocanthal in different olive oils varies. Eating an oil with much oleocanthal would not amount to as much prevention of inflammation as taking an aspirin.
Many studies have shown that aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs prevent recurrent stroke, heart attacks and maybe even some cancers. The fact that olive oil has these same anti-inflammatory properties may be one contributor to the salubrious effect of the "Mediterranean Diet".