Physical activity and Mediterranean diet based on olive tree phenolic compounds from two different geographical areas have protective effects on early osteoarthritis, muscle atrophy and hepatic steatosis

Eur J Nutr. 2019 Mar;58(2):565-581. doi: 10.1007/s00394-018-1632-2. Epub 2018 Feb 15.


Purpose: Osteoarthitis (OA) leads to progressive loss of articular cartilage, pain and joint disability. An acute injury constitutes an important risk factor for early OA, determining an inflammatory process responsible of cartilage degeneration and muscle atrophy, due to the joint pain and immobility. The study aims to assess the effects of conjugation of physical activity and diet enriched by olive tree compounds [extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and olive leaf extract (OLE)], on the musculoskeletal system in OA rat model.

Methods: OA was induced by anterior cruciate ligament transection and confirmed by Mankin and OARSI scores. Rats were subjected to physical activity on treadmill 5 days a week for 10 min daily and fed with experimental diets (standard diet enriched with Sicilian EVOO, Tunisian EVOO and Tunisian EVOO-OLE) for 12 weeks. Immunohistochemistry was used to evaluate IL-6 and lubricin expression in cartilage tissue and ELISA was used to quantify these proteins in serum at different time points. Histology and histomorphometry analysis were done to valuate liver steatosis, muscle atrophy and cartilage pathological changes.

Results: Compared to the OA group, the experimental groups showed general increased lubricin and decreased IL-6 expression, significant muscle hypertrophy and no signs of liver steatosis, suggesting the beneficial effects of physical activity coupled with EVOO-enriched diets on rat articular cartilage. Interestingly, the best result was shown for Sicilian EVOO-enriched diet.

Conclusion: In conclusion, the conjugation of physical activity and EVOO-enriched diet determines a significant articular cartilage recovery process in early OA.

Keywords: Inflammation; Lubricin; Muscle atrophy; Olive leaf extract; Olive oil; Osteoarthritis; Physical activity.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cartilage, Articular
  • Diet, Mediterranean*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fatty Liver / therapy*
  • Male
  • Muscular Atrophy / therapy*
  • Olea*
  • Olive Oil / administration & dosage
  • Olive Oil / pharmacology*
  • Osteoarthritis / therapy*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal*
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Olive Oil
  • Plant Extracts