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Thyme-Enriched Olive Oil May Reduce DNA Damage

Oxidative damage to DNA has been associated with a range of ailments, including atherosclerosis, heart failure, chronic fatigue syndrome, and Asperger syndrome. A recent study suggests that consuming virgin olive oil enriched with polyphenol compounds from thyme may protect DNA from oxidative damage.

Participants in the study included 33 people between the ages of 35 and 80 with elevated blood lipid levels. They were instructed to consume 25 mL per day of one of three olive oils: virgin olive oil, containing 2.88 mg phenols, virgin olive oil enriched with olive polyphenols, containing 12.59 phenols per day, or virgin olive oil enriched with olive and thyme polyphenols, containing 12.10 mg total phenols per day. All of the participants underwent each intervention for three weeks, followed by a two-week washout period, before moving on to the next intervention.

At the conclusion of the study, the researchers noted a 10-fold higher decrease in 8-OHdG, a marker of oxidative damage to DNA, in the olive- and thyme-enriched olive oil and a 5-fold higher decrease in the olive polyphenol olive oil group when compared with the virgin olive oil group. They also noted an increase of superoxide dismutase, an antioxidant enzyme, in the enriched olive oil groups, especially in the thyme-enriched oil, when compared with the virgin olive oil control. Superoxide dismutase is an enzyme that helps break down potentially harmful oxygen molecules in cells, which might prevent damage to tissues.

Researchers from Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Universitat de Lleida, Institut Hospital del Mar d’Investigacions Mèdiques, St. Joan de Reus University Hospital, and  Center for Omics Sciences, all in Spain, conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on February 26, 2016, in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Olive oil has been used in folk remedies for years and recent research suggests that it may help reduce the risk of colon cancer and lower cholesterol. In this study, the olive oil was enriched with polyphenols from thyme, which have been linked with aiding chest and respiratory problems, including coughs, bronchitis, and chest congestion.

If you want to add more olive oil to your diet, it can be as simple as eating a spoonful daily. If eating olive oil by the spoonful doesn’t appeal to you, consider substituting olive oil for butter in your daily diet by using it for cooking, putting it on bread, or using it as a salad dressing. Thyme is great when added to everything from roast meat to pasta sauce but be sure to add it toward the end of the cooking process, as the delicate flavor can be lost otherwise.

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