Olives and olive oil have been linked to numerous health benefits, including the cardiovascular benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet. Despite the positive benefits of this food, little was known about how the compounds and biochemical interactions affect weight loss and type 2 diabetes.

A new study published in Biochemistry suggests that the compound oleuropein—derived from olives—increases insulin secretion, which may control metabolism. The compound was also found to detoxify the signaling molecule amylin that aggregates in type 2 diabetes.

The authors hypothesize that oleuropein protects against diabetes through these mechanisms.

"Our work provides new mechanistic insights into the long-standing question of why olive products can be anti-diabetic," said lead author Bin Xu, PhD.

These results suggest that consuming olives or olive oil may be beneficial for patients with diabetes or even those with prediabetes. Upon further confirmation of its benefits, the Mediterranean diet—enriched with olive oil and vegetables—may be recommended for patients with diabetes.

The authors note that the study results could improve the understanding of the mechanisms of olives and could lead to low-cost nutraceuticals to combat diabetes and obesity, according to the study.

Next, the researchers plan to test oleuropein in animal models of diabetes, while also exploring its potential benefits related to metabolism and aging.

"We believe it will not only contribute to the biochemistry of the functions of the olive component oleuropein, but also have an impact on the general public to pay more attention to olive products in light of the current diabetes epidemic,” Dr Xu concluded.