CAMBRIDGE, United Kingdom — Olive oil is a great addition to any diet, especially when it’s replacing fatty alternatives like butter or margarine. Now, noteworthy new research suggests olive oil may also help when it comes to fitness and exercise. While you probably shouldn’t pack a bottle of olive oil with you on your next trip to the gym, scientists at Anglia Ruskin University are revealing that olive fruit water, a natural by-product created while producing olive oil, may hold antioxidant benefits and support exercise.
This is the first ever research analyzing the benefits of natural olive fruit water among recreationally active people. Olive fruit water is a waste product coming from the production of olive oil. Olives contain polyphenols which feature antioxidant properties. On a related note, a commercially available olive fruit water product known as OliPhenolia contains lots of phenolic compounds and is especially rich in hydroxytyrosol.
This project encompassed 29 recreationally active participants asked to consume either OliPhenolia or a placebo for 16 straight days. Researchers noted a number of positive effects on several key markers of running performance. Consumption of OliPhenolia improved respiratory levels both at the start of exercise as well as oxygen consumption and running efficiency during lower levels of intensity (lactate threshold 1).
Respiratory levels at higher intensity (lactate threshold 2), meanwhile, generally did not see any affect. Perceived exertion (how hard participants thought their body was working) did improve, however, as did acute recovery following incremental exercise.
“For a long time I’ve been interested in the exercise benefits of polyphenols, such as those derived from cherries and beetroot. To gain similar benefits from olives you would have to consume large quantities daily, which isn’t realistic, so we were keen to test this concentrated olive fruit water,” says lead author Dr. Justin Roberts, Associate Professor in Health & Exercise Nutrition at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), in a media release.
“Like olive oil it contains hydroxytyrosol, but this olive fruit water is a sustainable by-product. It’s typically thrown away during the production of olive oil, and we found a company in Italy – Fattoria La Vialla, a biodynamic farm in Tuscany – who decided to turn this waste water into a dietary supplement.”
These findings are preliminary, and much more research is necessary, but study authors are optimistic about olive fruit water’s future potential — from playing fields to weight rooms.
“Ours is the first study to investigate the use of this olive fruit water in an exercise setting and we found that 16 days of supplementation could have a positive influence on aerobic exercise, most notably at submaximal levels,” Dr. Roberts explains. “We found that reduced oxygen cost and improved running economy, as well as improvements in acute recovery, indicate it could potentially benefit those who are undertaking regular aerobic exercise training.”
“We now intend to carry out further research at Anglia Ruskin University to corroborate these findings. We are also looking to investigate whether this product can be used for marathon training and recovery, as well as test its effectiveness in suppressing inflammation associated with exercise.”
The study is published in the journal Nutrients.