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Psoriasis patients respond to olive oil supplement
By Dr. Patrick Massey | Daily Herald Columnist

An olive oil supplement helped patients with the skin condition psoriasis, researchers found in a small study.

 

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Published: 12/16/2007 10:38 PM

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From martinis to salads, the olive has traveled from the Middle East and gradually found its way into the American diet. Incorporating olives and olive oil into the diet can reduce the risk of a number of medical conditions, including heart disease and cancer. Recent medical research suggests that olive oil may also be helpful in the treatment of mild to moderate psoriasis.

Psoriasis is a skin disease that results in red or silvery scaly patches called plaques. These are actually areas of inflammation and overproduction of skin. These plaques frequently occur on the elbows and knees but can also affect any area.

Psoriasis is believed to be linked to an overactive immune system. It's not contagious but does have a genetic component. It is often made worse by a stressful lifestyle, including smoking, fatigue, depression and excessive drinking.

About 90 percent of all cases of psoriasis can be described as mild to moderate. Unfortunately, the therapies for psoriasis have many side effects and are used primarily in those with severe cases. There is no good medical therapy for those with mild to moderate psoriasis. One option, however, may be olive oil.

Several years ago, Dr. Fujio Numano, a Japanese cardiovascular researcher, discovered that a specific preparation of the olive oil supplement Olivenol dramatically improved psoriatic plaques. He was evaluating the heart benefits of olive oil, but discovered, by accident, that it also reduced psoriatic plaques.

One of his patients, a 71-year-old with severe psoriasis who was on medical therapy, had an 80 percent reduction in plaques after only two months. His results were confirmed in a small unpublished clinical trial involving several patients with psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions. All had good to excellent improvements within eight months.

Olive oil contains a group of compounds with anti-inflammatory properties called polyphenols. It is probably these polyphenols that give olive oil its remarkable health benefits. Polyphenols have been shown to inhibit compounds in the body that strongly amplify the inflammatory response. In addition, olive oil may contain undiscovered properties that inhibit other steps in the inflammatory pathway that ultimately leads to psoriasis.

There is evidence that an anti-inflammatory diet may also reduce psoriatic plaques. An anti-inflammatory diet is one that emphasizes fruits and vegetables, protein primarily from fish, chicken, beans, nuts and seeds and dramatically reduces red meat intake. This type of diet is rich in omega-3 fats (anti-inflammatory) and limits omega-6 fats (pro-inflammatory). Interestingly, these anti-inflammatory diets also use generous amounts of olive oil.

I believe that many of our illnesses are mediated by our lifestyles. As Americans, we often lack balance in our lives, from sleep deprivation and dietary indiscretions to a lack of "down" time. Rather than focusing on more drugs, perhaps nature has provided us with some of the best "medications". All we need to do is to look.