Hold the Olive Oil

Anti-inflammatory compounds in olive oil and ibuprofen can make you cough

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Two structurally unrelated anti-inflammatory compounds found in extra virgin olive oil and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) activate a receptor known as TRPA1, which can produce cough.

Researchers from the Monell Center in Philadelphia report that TRPA1, a receptor localized at the back of the throat, is activated by oleocanthal, a natural polyphenolic anti-inflammatory agent found only in extra virgin olive oil and ibuprofen, an over-the-counter NSAID. In fact, the unique sensation produced at the back of the throat as a result of oleocanthal -- and the ensuing cough -- are markers of high quality extra virgin olive oil (otherwise known as EVOO in culinary circles).

Paul A.S. Breslin, Ph.D., corresponding author of the study and a sensory biologist at Monell, said researchers believe the TRPA1 receptor produces cough "to protect the lungs from chemical insult" such as air toxins.

The findings determine oleocanthal causes the distinctive throat sting of olive oil via TRPA1 activation, which also produces ibuprofen's similar throat tickle, even though compounds in both agents are chemically unrelated.

The discovery could yield novel insights into anti-inflammatory pharmacology and even lead to less aversive anti-inflammatory medicines for children who are unable to swallow pills.

Breslin said the TRPA1 receptor could be used to identify other anti-inflammatory compounds that may help prevent disease.

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Review Date: 
January 20, 2011
Last Updated:
January 20, 2011