Olive oil has long been lauded for its benefits to cardiovascular health, and now olive oil has been shown to effectively combat Alzheimer’s disease.
In a study released on June 21, researchers observed the effects of daily olive oil consumption on a group of mice. The olive oil was not only effective in preserving memory and cognitive function, but the researchers were able to identify the mechanisms behind its effectiveness.
“We found that olive oil reduces brain inflammation but most importantly activates a process known as autophagy,” explained senior investigator Domenico Praticò, MD, a professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology and the Center for Translational Medicine at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine. According to Science Daily, “autophagy is the process by which cells break down and clear out intracellular debris and toxins, such as amyloid plaques and tau tangles.” The debris and toxins are major contributors to the progressive impact of Alzheimer’s disease, including loss of memory and inability to use language.
While on the surface, the group of mice eating olive oil appeared to be no different from the control group that did not, “mice on the extra virgin olive oil-enriched diet performed significantly better on tests designed to evaluate working memory, spatial memory, and learning abilities.” Additionally, upon closer investigation the nerve cells both appeared and functioned much better than the cells of the control group.
The study was published during the Alzheimer’s Association’s “Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month,” providing hope and the promise of innovation for future generations working to cure the degenerative disease. With over five million Americans affected with Alzheimer’s each year — and with that number expected to triple by 2050 — this discovery could have a major impact on both the longevity and health of future generations.
The most common form of dementia in the United States, Alzheimer’s is no joke — for some time, there have been few major breakthroughs in research concerning the prevention of and rehabilitation from the disease. That makes this study undoubtedly exciting; Praticò and the other researchers are already lined up to begin work on a follow up experiment.
This study, along with other research about the beneficial qualities of olive oil, serves as further proof that Americans should increase their intake of healthy fats and oils.