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How olive oil by-products can support exercise

A new study finds that olive fruit water, considered waste water, can be beneficial for people who are recreationally active

Olive fruit water, a waste product derived during the production of olive oil is could aid exercise. (Pexels./Mareefe)
Olive fruit water, a waste product derived during the production of olive oil is could aid exercise. (Pexels./Mareefe)

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A new study has found that a natural by-product of olive oil production could have antioxidant benefits and aid exercise. The study, by nutrition researchers at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and published in the journal Nutrients, shows the benefits of natural olive fruit water in exercise.

The fruit water is a waste product derived from the production of olive oil. Olives contain polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties, and the olive fruit water product OliPhenolia contains several phenolic compounds and is rich in hydroxytyrosol, according to the article published on ARU’s website.

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In recent weeks, olive oil has received renewed attention as Starbucks launched a coffee-olive oil concoction, Oleato, in Milan. For those following keto diets, this might not be too amusing, as the diet involves combining coffee with fats such as ghee. This comes at a time when more people are talking about olive oil’s health benefits. A 2022 study found that people who consumed half a tablespoon of olive oil every day had about a 19% lower chance of dying from cardiovascular disease. Another study published in PLoS One last year showed olive oil consumption was beneficial for cancer prevention.

While there is ample research on olive oil’s health benefits, an ARU researcher’s study on the waste water produced during the oil's production is the first study to investigate its potential benefits for people who exercise. The study included 29 recreationally active participants who consumed either OliPhenolia or a placebo over 16 consecutive days. Its positive effects were linked with several key markers of running performance.

OliPhenolia improved respiratory parameters at the start of exercise as well as oxygen consumption and running economy at lower levels of intensity. 

Although the respiratory parameters at a higher intensity were mostly unaffected, perceived exertion – how hard participants thought their body was working –showed improvement along with acute recovery after 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," said Lead author Dr Justin Roberts, Associate Professor in Health & Exercise Nutrition at ARU.

As olive fruit water is a sustainable by-product, they found a company in Italy—Fattoria La Vialla, a biodynamic farm in Tuscany—to turn this waste water into a dietary supplement, he added. 

The researchers intend to conduct further research 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," Roberts said. 

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