a dark glass bottle of Pamako being filled in the bottling plant

For the first time, says Pamako’s Eftychis Androulakis, an extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has been officially approved as a food supplement. While EVOO is also a healthy natural food, this early harvest Greek olive oil is so rich in antioxidants, and is produced, stored, and bottled with such care, that it can be prescribed by Belgian and Luxembourg doctors.

What is this new product? There is “no new product,” Androulakis told Greek Liquid Gold; it is “the same olive oil as in the Pamako bottle, exactly the same stuff.” The same multi award winning organic Greek extra virgin olive oil he sells as Pamako monovarietal EVOO in 250 ml and 500 ml bottles is now also being bottled in 200 ml medicine bottles. In that form, it is sold under the name CardiOlea by nutritional supplement company Nutri-Logics as a hydroxytyrosol supplement with noteworthy antioxidant effects that can help prevent many serious illnesses.

With twenty times more of the natural phenolic compound hydroxytyrosol than a typical olive oil, according to the Nutri-Logics website, CardiOlea is now available in pharmacies in Belgium and (since the middle of December) Luxembourg, where Nutri-Logics has offices. Certifications as a food supplement are also expected soon in France, Germany, and Poland.

According to an Olive Review article, “[o]n the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) scale, a measure of antioxidant capacity, hydroxytyrosol has been found to surpass all other known antioxidant compounds regarding its free radical-fighting power. Its ORAC value of 68,576 is 15 times higher than the ORAC value for green tea.” Moreover, reports Nutri-Logics, hydroxytyrosol is easier for the body to absorb than many antioxidants. Fat soluble as well as water soluble, it readily enters the bloodstream, tissues, and brain to help fight the oxidative stress associated with various diseases.

Androulakis reports that CardiOlea from the 2020 olive harvest contains 2089 mg/kg total phenols, according to the NMR measurement; this includes 1104 mg/kg hydroxytyrosol, 985 mg/kg tyrosol, and 365 mg/kg oleuropein. (The phenolic content naturally varies from year to year.) Given its high phenolic content, CardiOlea is advertised as a supplement that naturally contains compounds scientific research has linked to antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, neuroprotective, antihypertensive, and immunomodulatory properties. Androulakis explained to Greek Liquid Gold that physicians in Belgium and Luxembourg can now prescribe CardiOlea and Pamako as a food supplement for certain reasons, such as helping to lower cholesterol, protect from oxidation, and reduce high blood pressure.

To determine the usefulness of the product they would call CardiOlea, Nutri-Logics started by examining scientific research already done on specific phenols. Now, says Androulakis, approximately 80 physicians have written more than 700 prescriptions for CardiOlea in Belgium, and their observational reports on the progress of patients using it suggest that the supplement can have the positive effects listed above. Published results of scientific research on CardiOlea that will include control groups are expected in 2021.

While many assume especially healthy EVOOs will be too bitter to consume, the olive oil in CardiOlea bottles is the same popular monovarietal Tsounati extra virgin olive oil found in Pamako bottles. Pamako monovarietal EVOO has won 21 awards at international olive oil competitions for its flavor and quality, lauded by international judges in New York and London, Italy and Japan, Israel and Greece (not to mention many additional international medals for health benefits and design, plus national and regional awards for quality). Since 2014, Androulakis has aimed for both extremely high phenolics and excellent organoleptic characteristics (aroma and flavor), “always with a gold medal for phenols and a gold medal for organoleptics” from at least one competition--a goal he has far surpassed. He will continue this dual focus on optimizing both flavor and health benefits.

Interest in the phenols naturally found in olive oil has increased since the European Food Safety Authority’s health claim for olive oil (EU Regulation 432/2012) recognized the antioxidant properties offered by specified amounts of certain phenolic compounds. For example, five and a half years ago, Nutri-Logics owner Salva Piscopo was vacationing in Crete when a taxi driver told him about an article in a local newspaper that mentioned Pamako EVOO and its high phenolic content. The driver’s translation of the article inspired Piscopo to seek out Androulakis. When the two met, they talked all about olive oil phenols, then decided to collaborate.

Androulakis explained to Greek Liquid Gold that research by Nutri-Logics established certain requirements for a normal food to be designated a food supplement that could offer health benefits until its expiration date. While a regular food can have a health claim, a supplement must be able to offer additional benefits for a fixed period of time. Nutri-Logics found that EVOO for a supplement must include not only the 250 mg/kg of specific phenolic compounds required by the EU health claim, but at least four times that much. There must be at least five times more hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol than for the health claim for the supplement to be effective with the recommended 20 ml/day dose until its expiration date.

Androulakis reports that Nutri-Logics’ five and a half years of testing and 670 pages of findings show (among other things) what will happen at a typical pharmacy temperature of 25 degrees Celsius. The expiration date cannot be 1.5 years from bottling, as for EVOO, but must be approximately 11 months from the production (not bottling) date. CardiOlea loses no more than 7% of its phenolic content before that expiration date. This is true in the case of this specific product, which is produced under very particular conditions: made from unripe, non-irrigated Tsounati olives grown in rugged Cretan mountains, with pits and skins removed before olive oil production, and oil bottled with the inert gas argon and stored at a maximum room temperature of 15 degrees Celsius before shipment. All of that either increases the phenols or helps them last longer in the bottle, even at a typical room temperature rather than the colder temperature that would be preferable.  

Androulakis suggests that the approval of an EVOO as a food supplement goes far beyond the EU health claim, opening new doors for producers of extra healthy olive oil. He and Nutri-Logics (and their attorneys) will eventually seek approval for a food supplement outside Europe, but first they will apply for it in additional European countries. Ideally, they would like to see a new EU regulation making extremely high phenolic olive oil a food supplement throughout the EU, so individual countries’ approval would not be required. In the meantime, Androulakis hopes some other Greek olive oils can be approved as food supplements, since he believes CardiOlea’s certification “opens roads for a lot of other producers, a lot of other olive oils.”

Thanks to Pamako for the photos used with this article.

All businesses, organizations, and competitions involved with Greek olive oil, the Mediterranean diet, and/or agrotourism or food tourism in Greece, as well as anyone else interested in supporting Greeks working in these sectors, are invited to consider the advertising and sponsorship opportunities on the Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil website. The only wide-ranging English-language site featuring news and information from the Greek olive oil world, it has helped companies reach consumers in more than 200 countries around the globe.

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