Thursday, January 31, 2013

Olive Leaf Extract: Industrial Food Quasi-Scam with Clever Story

"Olive leaf...take olive leaf!" exuded a neighbor to my sniffing, coughing husband. "I take olive leaf extract whenever I feel a cold coming on. Cures it every time!" Smiling serenely, she added, "Olive trees can live 2,000 years. That's good enough testament for me!" 

Olive leaf extract?  What's this... another miracle-food fad placebo that the industrial food world is gearing up to make millions by cleverly hawking it to you and me?   (See Raspberry Ketones: Another Industrial Food Quasi-Scam?

But olive leaf extract? It sounds kind of bona fide. After all...
  • Extra-virgin olive oil is proven to be laden with omega-3 fatty acids that can provide heart health benefits.   
  • Olive trees hail from the Mediterranean. Isn't the Mediterranean diet good for us?
  • Olive trees are so feel-good biblical... The Mount of Olives in Israel is mentioned often in the Old Testament. The Mount of Olives is where Jesus wept, prayed, taught, and from where he descended into heaven.  Olive trees feel vaguely holy by association. 
Olive Leaf Extracts and Supplements: The Claims
The cover of an Amazon-sold book, Olive Leaf Extract, by Morton Walker, a former podiatrist, boasts that olive leaf extract is "The Natural Way to Treat:
  • Viral infections
  • The common cold
  • Arthritis
  • Skin diseases
  • Heart trouble
  • And more!"
"We all live in the Hot Zone now," blares the book's intro, then scaremongers on:
"Antibiotics have failed. With the coming of exotic new viruses, and the evolution of microbes resistant to the drugs we've used for the last fifty years, we have never needed an alternative therapy more. 
"Olive Leaf Extract-- effective, natural, and nontoxic-- has been used as a folk remedy for thousands of years. Only now has scientific research shown that the active ingredient, oleuropein, has vast healing powers because it practically eliminates the viruses, fungi, bacteria, and other parasites that cause disease.
"From immune disorders to the common cold, from athlete's foot to malaria, olive leaf extract can be an adjunct to any program of healing, health, and wellness"
Alert the Gates Foundation! A cure for malaria has been found; Bill and Melinda can stop  wasting hundreds of millions in attempting to treat and prevent malaria in Africa and other developing countries. 

Not! These three ultra-slick, finely worded paragraphs are worthy of any slimy, All-American snake-oil pitch, including those for acai berry and raspberry ketones supplements.  

My brief internet perusal finds claims that olive leaf extract also lowers blood pressure, boosts bone health, eliminates yeast infections, and, of course, has been "shown to eliminate cancer tumors.


Google "olive leaf extract" and you'll find more than 2,110,000 results, mainly products, ads, unverifiable testimonies, and barely traceable websites.    The modern industrial-food complex has already discovered its newest miracle elixir, olive leaf extract, and good gracious... those greedy profits must be quite golden.  

Olive Leaf Extracts and Supplements: The Truth
Oleuropein, a chemical compound found in leaves from olive trees, is an antioxidant, which is "molecule that inhibits the oxidation of other molecules."  (See Wikipedia for explanation of antioxidant chemistry.) 

Oleuropein lends extra-virgin olive oil, the least processed of olive oils,  its pungent, distinctive taste. 

Antioxidants are particularly rich in many fruits and vegetables as well as fish, and are thought to positively benefit various aspects of human health.  The amount of positive health impact, though, is quite controversial and not considered settled science.    Reports Wikpedia:
"...  Since fruits and vegetables happen to be good sources of nutrients and phytochemicals, this suggested that antioxidant compounds might lower risk against several diseases.
"This idea has been tested in a limited manner in clinical trials and does not seem to be true, as antioxidant supplements have no clear effect on the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease."
Alarmingly, Wikipedia further reports, "Some antioxidant supplements may promote disease and increase mortality in humans... " 
My internet research could find absolutely no... zero, zilch, nada... scientific evidence or testing in support of human health claims attributed to olive leaf extracts or supplements. 

 I did locate a listing of Scientific References at website Olivus: The Olive Leaf Source, an internet retailer of olive leaf teas, capsules, liquid extracts, powders, and books. The first of five listed "sources" is Dr. Morton Walker, author of the book from which I quoted, above. Another scientific reference comes from Korea. (Could they be the same Korean scientists who supported raspberry ketone supplements?) 


Best advice
Eat real food, not fake food or fake food supplements. 

If you want the health benefits of the oleuropein chemical compound found in both olives and olive leaves, regularly enjoy a sprinkling of delicious, good-quality extra-virgin olive oil on salads, pasta, dips, or meats. 

Why buy over-priced, over-hyped, real food-substitutes when the real deal... extra-virgin olive oils... are widely available? Unless, of course, your goal is to fatten the coffers of the modern industrial food industry.

5 comments:

  1. have been using olive leaf extract for the past 4 years for all the family and I would not be without it for treating cold and flu virus, also helped with my daughter with swine flu. I had a very sick rat with respiratory infection and was at deaths door gasping for air, started treating it with olive leaf extract in a large dose and it made a full recovery. I am a firm believer and experienced the benefits of olive leaf.

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  2. I treated my dog with it when he was fighting a raging ear infection still at the end of a course of antibiotics. I have used it multiple times to fight off illness (including the flu) in myself, but my dog sure wouldn't be helped by the placebo effect. We were on vacation, and I didn't know what else to do for him so thought it was worth a try. Sure enough, he was well within 3 days.

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  3. Re: Olive leaf extract, has lowered my blood pressure and totaly healed a cellulitis infection i had for 7 months. I had 2 rounds of keflex and bactrim that did not work!!! I tried the olive leaf as a last resort and thank God i did. I'm finally healed. I fully expected it NOT to work, but it did and i'm grateful i kept an open mind about trying something new. Lisa R St. Petersburg, fl.

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  4. Hmmm, lots of studies on this stuff. Seach Medline http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23516412

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  5. U of Maryland has studies too

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