When people talk about the health benefits of extra-virgin olive oil, it is usually linked to heart health. However, its effects on a different organ have been in the news lately: The brain.
Researchers from Temple University have discovered that extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) can not only help protect against memory loss, but it can also alleviate the conditions associated with Alzheimer’s disease. They reached their conclusion following studies involving mice with induced dementia.
The mice were divided into two groups, one of which was given a diet that was enriched with extra-virgin olive oil. The oil was introduced when the mice were just six months old and had not yet begun to display symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
While the two groups of mice did not show any differences in their appearance immediately following their respective diets, the neuron connections in the brains of the mice on the EVOO diet were better preserved at nine and 12 months, and they also showed better learning and memory ability on tests.
Alzheimer’s disease is believed to begin with a reduction in the brain’s autophagy process, which entails the removal of the toxins and intracellular debris that are firm markers of the illness. Olive oil is able to activate this important process and reduce brain inflammation, thereby protecting against Alzheimer’s.
The consumption of olive oil also helps to reduce the formation of harmful brain structures, such as neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid-beta plaques. Previous research has linked the presence of such structures to an individual’s likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s, with neurofibrillary tangles believed to contribute to the poor memory that is often seen in Alzheimer’s patients.
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Senior researcher Professor Domenico Pratico of the Lewis Klein School of Medicine remarked: “Thanks to the autophagy activation, memory and synaptic integrity were preserved, and the pathological effects in animals otherwise destined to develop Alzheimer’s disease were significantly reduced.”
Next, the researchers would like to determine if introducing olive oil at a more advanced age can reverse or stop the illness. This is crucial because many people don’t start to suspect dementia until the illness is already present.
With five million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s and as many as 16 million expected to develop it by 2050, the time to find a solution is now. Dementia is already a leading cause of poor health and disability, and it’s the sixth-leading cause of death in our nation. In addition to its effects on the patients, this heartbreaking illness also places a tremendous burden on family members and caregivers.
Olive oil’s benefits extend beyond preventing dementia
Avoiding dementia is not the only reason to add more olive oil to your diet. A recent study from Copenhagen University Hospital involving 182 men aged 20 to 60 found that those who consumed a quarter cup of olive oil per day had an average reduction in oxidative damage to DNA cells of 13 percent. It has also been linked to a reduction in stroke and heart disease risk, protection against depression, and healthy cholesterol levels.
However, when you’re looking to increase your intake of olive oil, make sure you know what you’re getting as fraud is widespread in the industry. Many of our country’s best-selling brands failed to meet IOC standards in tests due to adulteration, oxidation, or poor quality. Italian extra-virgin olive oil is commonly mixed with inferior olive oils that are cheaper to produce, or even other types of oil entirely. Experts say that real olive oil starts to solidify when refrigerated.
With so many great health benefits and new ones constantly being discovered by researchers, there is no reason not to start consuming more of this healthy oil.