Olive oil

US researchers have found that a cell receptor called TRPA1 is activated by two apparently unrelated anti-inflammatory agents – the well known anti-inflammatory ibuprofen, and the rather less well known anti-inflammatory, olive oil (or, more specifically, a component of olive oil called oleocanthal).

The TRPA1 receptor is found at the back of the throat, which leads the researchers, whose data are published in the Journal of Neuroscience, to conclude that it is responsible for the slight stinging sensation you get with some of the more expensive extra virgin olive oils.

‘Oleocanthal and ibuprofen are chemically unrelated, yet both are potent anti-inflammatory compounds that activate the TRPA1 receptor and cause sensory irritation,’ says corresponding author Gary Beauchamp of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, US.

Lead author Catherine Peyrot des Gachons points out that the two anti-inflammatory agents promote irritation and pain. ‘These two facts seems antagonistic and excitingly mysterious from a scientific perspective,’ she concludes.

Bea Perks

Reference: C Peyrot des Gachons et al, J. Neurosci., 2011, 31, 999, DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1374-10.2011

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