The healthy properties of olive oil have been known since ancient times. It could be said that olives and their derivatives are small pharmacies where you can find molecules with multiple positive effects on health. Scientific evidence has shown that they contain compounds that improve the immune system, possess anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic, antioxidant properties, and prevent the onset of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. But now its effectiveness against covid-19 is also being studied.
The University Hospital of Jaén has already started the clinical trial to evaluate the efficacy of a food supplement, based on an olive polyphenol extract, in combination with routinely administered therapy, to observe the progression of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection towards a severe clinical involvement. The so-called study Covidarity analyzes whether the administration of these capsules or nutritional supplement, which are marketed under the name of Alyvium®, to covid patients admitted with mild or moderate clinical involvement prevents progression to severe stages. A supplement composed of an olive extract that combines in a balanced and optimized way simple phenols, polyphenols and natural flavonoids, in an amount equivalent to a total of between 15 and 25 olives, as well as vitamin A, riboflavin and biotin, and which has already demonstrated antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiaggregant activity.
“Thanks to the intense research work with authorized trials, we now have drugs that have managed to reduce the mortality of our patients,” says Dr. Carmen Herrero Rodríguez, from the Infections Diseases and Clinical Microbiology Unit of the University Hospital of Jaén. Along these lines, Sergio Granados, doctor in Pharmacy and coordinator of the research, abounds in the positive effects of the trial: “We think that the administration of the nutritional supplement may be beneficial for covid patients who are characterized by having a high production of pro-inflammatory cytokines , as well as problems of thrombosis as a consequence of the appearance of coagulopathies ”.
The study is being applied initially in 60 covid patients over 50 years old who are admitted to the Internal Medicine Unit and who participate voluntarily. All of them receive standard treatment for the disease according to the protocols established in the hospital, but in addition they are being administered two supplement tablets every eight hours for three weeks. The study focuses, therefore, on the first stage of infection, that is, from when the first symptoms occur and infection is confirmed with positive PCR. It is investigated how many patients evolve from mild to severe symptoms, measuring all the markers that, according to the most recent data, would be behind this worsening, including cytokines, ferritin, D-dimer and antioxidant markers, as well as thrombogenicity. “We believe that action at an earlier stage is very beneficial for the patient directly and for the health system indirectly”, underlines Granados.
“Once the product capsules have been dispensed, the correct traceability of the nutraceutical dispensed to each patient is carried out in the event of withdrawal due to a health alert or due to the early termination of the trial”, adds Carolina Alarcón, specialist in Hospital Pharmacy. If the study yields good results, a second trial will be carried out with a larger population segment.
Sergio Granados, Carmen Herrero, Carolina Alarcón, Esther Ocaña and Justo Martínez, the latter specialist in Internal Medicine, are the main architects of this clinical trial. Also Solvitae Medical, the firm that owns Alyvium®, a product that is already marketed to maintain the immune system and the skin in normal conditions and that was awarded as the Best Supplement of the Year in Europe in 2017 by the medical magazine William Reed Media. Finally, the Malaga-based company Genosa, specialized in olive polyphenols, which, from its experience, has contributed its practical and technical knowledge in the design of the study protocol.
In recent years, clinical studies have been taking place on the cardiovascular benefit of virgin and extra virgin olive oil, which is considered a backbone of the Mediterranean diet. The strongest and the one with the highest scientific level is the Predimed study, in which 2,543 patients received a Mediterranean diet with olive oil, compared to 2,450 who did not consume this oil. After five years, a 30% reduction in the risk of suffering a cardiovascular event was observed among the former. Scientists consider this healthy diet to be the most effective lifestyle change in reducing cardiovascular arteriosclerosis-related processes, even more effectively than many drug treatments.
Similarly, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has confirmed that “there is a well-established cause-and-effect relationship between the consumption of polyphenols in olive oil and protection from oxidative damage.” All this in addition to its ability to maintain normal blood cholesterol, due to its richness in oleic acid.
To endorse all this scientific evidence, more than 60 researchers from universities, research institutes, the CSIC and hospital centers throughout Spain, grouped around the Maimonides Institute for Biomedical Research of Córdoba (Imibic), have drawn up a manifesto in which , after praising the benefits of liquid gold from a public health point of view, they show their concern about the hasty implementation of the Nutri-Score, food labeling system, due to the lack of recognition of virgin olive oil as a healthy food. “This tool has not been shown reliably and with scientific guarantee that it is beneficial for public health, since there is no evidence that it reduces the risk of suffering from the diseases that it is trying to prevent”, indicate the researchers from the Maimónides Institute of Córdoba .