Antonia Sinesi1* and Ruggiero Damato2
1RDH, Freelancer in Canosa di Puglia, Italy
2RDH, Freelancer in Barletta, Italy
*Corresponding author: Antonia Sinesi, RDH, Freelancer in Canosa di Puglia, Italy
Submission: January 15, 2021;Published: January 28, 2021
The term “Functional Food” originated in Japan during the 1980s. Japan was the first country in the world to define the concept of functional foods by calling them FOSHU, an acronym that stands for “Food for specified health use” and which indicates a particular category of food or drink, which boast the ability to act on certain organs to prevent and treat particular ailments. A Functional Food is therefore a potentially healthy food, whose positive effect is attributable to intrinsically present components or to components it has been enriched with capable of interacting positively with the organism, obtaining a significant improvement in the state of health and well-being and/or a decrease in the risk of contracting chronic diseases.
Although there are a number of ways to define the term ‘functional food’ , to date, there is no universally accepted definition for this group of foods . Several national authorities and scientific organizations have formulated definitions . The International Food Information Council defines functional foods as “foods that may provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition” . The American Dietetic Association defines functional foods as “foods that provide additional health benefits that may reduce disease risk and/or promote optimal health” . The EU Project “Functional Food Science in Europe” specifies functional foods as “foods that are satisfactorily demonstrated to affect beneficially one or more target functions in the body, beyond adequate nutritional effects, in a way that is relevant to either an improved state of health and well-being and/or reduction of risk of disease” .
Among functional foods we find extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), an essential food of Mediterranean diet (MD) in the countries of the homonymous area such as Spain, Italy and Greece which represent the most important producers in the world. As documented by numerous studies published in recent decades, most of the beneficial effects of the Mediterranean diet on promoting human health can be attributed to EVOO . Extra-virgin olive oil is regarded as functional food since epidemiological studies and multidisciplinary research have reported convincing evidence that its intake beneficially affects one or more target functions in the body, improves health and reduces risk of disease. Its health properties have been related to the major and minor component fractions of extra-virgin olive oil. Among olive oil chemical components, the phenolic fraction has received considerable attention due to its bioactivity in different chronic diseases. The bioactivity of the phenolic compounds could be related to different properties such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ones, although the molecular action mechanism of these compounds in relation to many diseases might have different cellular targets.
Its unique composition and biological properties are largely responsible for this association (Figure 1). The beneficial properties of EVOO have been attributed to its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), which represent up to 80% of its total lipid composition. However, recent evidence has shown that the minor components of EVOO, such as phenolic compounds and other compounds with antioxidant actions, determine an increase in the health characteristics of the oil itself . These components make up only 1-2% of EVO and are completely absent in other types of oils derived from seeds or fruits . The nutritional and antioxidant properties of EVOO are related to the presence and concentration of tocopherols, carotenoids and phenolic compounds which are of great importance for human health . Extra virgin olive oils contain different classes of phenolic compounds such as phenyl alcohol (hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol), cynic acid (caffeic and p-coumaric acid) and benzoic acid (vanillic acid), flavones (apigenin and luteolin) and secoiridoids (oleuropein and ligtroside derivatives) . The main polyphenol in EVOO, hydroxytyrosol, is a ROS scavenger. In EVOO we find oleuropein, an anti-inflammatory molecule that promotes the production of nitric oxide in macrophages  and oleocanthal which exerts an anti-inflammatory action similar to ibuprofen [13,14]. EVOO itself is rich in vitamins D, A, E and helps the absorption of the whole group of fat- soluble vitamins. EVOO, rich in polyphenols, is able to reduce heterocyclic amines and plasma levels of C reactive protein . Nutrigenomic studies by De Santis et al.  reveal that the EVOO cultivars characterized by a high content of polyphenols such as the “Coratina”  cultivar present in a geographical area of Puglia, are able to act on transcriptome and to modulate the expression of different miRNA transcripts involved in different pathways, for example glucose or lipid metabolism and cell proliferation, so polyphenols are fundamental biomolecules in nutrigenomic modulation. Therefore, the positive impact of EVOO on human health could be attributed to a synergistic effect of polyphenolic compounds with the high content of oleic acid.
In 2011 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) approved a health claim stating that the dietary intake of virgin olive oil (poly) phenols is able to protect blood lipids from oxidative damage. The panel considers that in order to bear the claim, 5mg of hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives should be consumed daily [18,19]. Extra virgin olive oil has such important beneficial properties that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration, USA government body) has included it in the superfood category, promoting it as a “drug” stating that the daily consumption of about 2 tablespoons, or 23 grams of olive oil, can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Due to these healthy properties, EVOO can also find a field of application in prevention and treatment of oral diseases. EVOO is used for treatment of oral mucosa lesions such as traumatic ulcers, reducing healing times . Its mode of use as a therapeutic agent is the same as that of a mouthwash.
Studies in the literature show that it has positive effects on initial erosion of the enamel,  burning mouth syndrome [22,23], in prevention of oral cancer , in prevention and treatment of periodontal disease  and in treatment of mucositis following radiotherapy . This functional food with extraordinary multifaceted and miraculous properties should be taken daily with food but could also be used to solve mouth problems especially affecting the oral mucosa. Use of EVOO could find application above all as a valid alternative to classic drug treatment.
© 2021 Antonia Sinesi. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and build upon your work non-commercially.