Here, the effects of consuming polyphenol-rich olive products, including olive leaves, their crude extract, and extra virgin olive oil, on aspects of the metabolic syndrome are reviewed. We have sought to summarize the available scientific evidence from dietary intervention trials demonstrating a role for these phytochemicals in ameliorating aberrant glucose metabolism, high blood pressure and elevated blood lipids, and we discuss the potential mechanisms underpinning these observations. Searches for relevant literature published in English were conducted via PubMed and Science Direct. Based on published dietary intervention studies, there is convincing evidence to show that olive polyphenols, independently of olive lipids, reduce risk factors for metabolic syndrome, in particular by improving blood sugar and blood pressure control, and in reducing low density lipoprotein oxidation. There is more limited evidence to suggest that the consumption of olive polyphenols or related products can reduce body weight and visceral fat or impede weight gain, and similarly there are some limited data suggesting improved lipid profiles. There is some mechanistic data to support observations made in human volunteers, but further work is needed in this area. The consumption of olive polyphenols within the context of a healthy pattern of food intake may, in part, explain the reduced risk of metabolic disease associated with adherence to the Mediterranean diet.
Keywords: central obesity; dyslipidaemia; hyperglycaemia; hypertension; metabolic syndrome; olive polyphenols.