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Optimised olive oil for older people

The consumption of olive oil containing polyphenols, vitamin D and omega-3 could be a valuable strategy to prevent age-related bone and muscle loss. While awaiting its validation in the context of a clinical trial, this nutritional prevention strategy could open the way towards the development of innovative products.

Sports activity. © Fotolia, karelnoppe-58262134
Updated on 01/15/2016
Published on 10/13/2015

Ageing of the body is associated with low grade inflammation.  Such a chronic, inflammatory background is directly implicated in the onset of degenerative pathologies such as osteoporosis or sarcopenia (muscle loss). The curative or preventive therapies available at present to reduce the development of these age-related pathologies have proved only limited efficacy (and are not devoid of side effects) when compared with the cost of their implementation.  
A growing body of research is currently focusing on diet, and more specifically the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potential of certain nutrients, in order to develop preventive nutritional strategies.  Thus the effect of consuming calcium on bone health is well documented in the scientific literature, as is the intake of protein to preserve muscle mass.  On the other hand, very few studies have considered possible synergies between nutrients or addressed the issue from a systemic point of view.

A nutritional preventive strategy seen in terms of its diversity and global nature

The originality of the ANR POlivD3 project was to develop an integrated approach in order to study the cumulated benefits of consuming of different micronutrients (polyphenols, vitamin D and omega-3) on the bones, muscles and adipose tissues.  Indeed, these three tissues are the subject of a permanent dialogue at the molecular and cellular levels, with notably an orientation with age of stem cells from the locomotor system towards adipose tissue, to the detriment of muscles, thus underlining the importance of a global study.  Olive oil, which is an essential component in the Mediterranean diet, is acknowledged for its positive health effects, and was chosen as the underlying dietary matrix.  The phenolic composition of five olive oils was thus determined in order to choose that which contained the highest levels of bioactive compounds and displayed the greatest stability.  It was supplemented - or not - with vitamin D and DHA during experiments carried out in vitro and in vivo in animal models.

A synergistic effect of vitamin D and polyphenols

it was possible to evidence a bone sparing effect of virgin olive oil (with a high polyphenol content) enriched with vitamin D in a mouse model of osteoporosis. On the other hand, virgin olive oil, vitamin D and DHA did not exert any measurable effects on adipose and muscle tissues. Knowledge of the mechanisms involved was also acquired during this project and could serve to underpin a scientific claim in the event of an industrial partner developing registered health allegations.

A current clinical study to confirm the initial findings

A clinical study involving 150 menopausal women was organised to test the therapeutic potential of a combination of olive oil polyphenols, vitamin D and DHA, over a 9-month period of consumption.  Although this study is now completed, the results are still being analysed.  Depending on the conclusions, the commercial development of a new oil, optimised to improve the health of older people, could be envisaged.

Scientific contact(s):

  • Véronique COXAM (04 73 62 46 32) INRA-Joint Research Unit for Human Nutrition Route de Theix-63122 Saint-Genès Champanelle
Associated Division(s):
Nutrition, Chemical Food Safety and Consumer Behaviour
Associated Centre(s):

The ANR PolivD3 project

POlivD3 is an interface project between fundamental and industrial research, coordinated by Véronique COXAM in the Joint Research Unit for Human Nutrition (UNH, INRA, Clermont Ferrand). This project also involves three other research units (Joint Research Unit for Nutrition, Obesity and Thrombotic Risks, UMR 1260 in Marseille; the Centre for Research in Human Nutrition, CNRH in Clermont-Ferrand; Université d’Auvergne in Clermont Ferrand), a technical centre (Technical Centre for Food Preservation (CTCPA) in Avignon) and an industrial partner, LESIEUR. The project started in March 2011 for a 3-year period. It received support from the ANR, for an approximative cost of €900,000, the overall budget being around €2,200,000.

Auvergne, a region focused on problems of mobility

In the context of the European "smart specialisation strategy", the Auvergne region decided to give a high priority in terms of research and economic development to the prevention of individual mobility throughout life. The UNH Auvergne research team,  coordinator of the POLivD3 project, together with the CNRH in Clermont-Ferrand, are thus in the vanguard of building European leadership regarding this issue of individual mobility so as to maintain quality of life.