As if we needed more reasons to follow a Mediterranean style diet, while many diet trends come and go, the Mediterranean diet is an original, and to this day is still praised and followed for its inclusion of plant-based foods, omega-fatty acids and filling fiber coming from legumes.
However it’s one specific ingredient that gets some more time in the spotlight, as olive oil has been identified as a cognitive protecting ingredient that may protect memory, learning, and focus while also reducing or preventing the formation of amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain – both of which are a classic marker for Alzheimer’s disease.
Researches at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) found properties of extra-virgin olive oil to reduce brain inflammation and activate a process known as autophagy, a process in which cells break down and clear out intracellular debris and toxins, such as amyloid plaques and tau tangles.
This study was published on June 21, 2017, in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology. Researchers investigated the relationship between extra-virgin olive oil and dementia, Dr. Praticò and colleagues used a well-established Alzheimer’s disease mouse model known as a triple transgenic model. These animals have three key characteristics of the disease: memory impairment, amyloid plaques, and neurofibrillary tangles.
Researchers divided the animals into two groups, one of which received a diet enriched with extra-virgin olive oil and the other group received the regular diet. Olive oil was introduced into the diet when the mice were six months old before symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease begin to emerge.
At age 9 and 12 months, the mice that were taking the extra virgin olive oil-enriched diet performed significantly better on tests designed to evaluate working memory, spatial memory, and learning abilities.
Brain tissue studies revealed dramatic differences between the groups, in both nerve cell appearance and function.
“One thing that stood out immediately was synaptic integrity,” Dr. Praticò said. The integrity of the connections between neurons, known as synapses, were preserved in animals that were receiving the olive oil diet. This group also showed a dramatic increase in nerve cell autophagy activation, which was ultimately responsible for the reduction in levels of amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau.
Dr. Praticò and his colleagues plan to further investigate the effects of extra-virgin olive oil. They want to know whether olive oil added at a later time can stop or reverse the disease.
This should be enough reason to include more extra-virgin olive oil in your daily routine, be sure to use this oil as a finishing oil, and in salad dressings to retain its beneficial properties. It’s not recommended to cook with olive oil, as heat is likely to damage the beneficial phytonutrients within. Since good quality olive oil is also generally more expensive, don’t risk losing the benefits of the health-promoting properties by heating it. There are plenty of other oil and healthy fats that are suitable for cooking, such as grass-fed butter, ghee, coconut oil, and avocado oil.
Give some olive oil to your dog too! This also works wonders for their brain health while also promoting a shiny coat. Drizzle a teaspoon (for 30-40 pound dogs) to a tablespoon (for 90+ pound dogs) to your dog’s usual bowl of food daily or weekly.
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Preserves Memory and Protects Brain Against Alzheimer’s Disease, New Research at Temple Shows https://medicine.temple.edu/news/extra-virgin-olive-oil-preserves-memory-and-protects-brain-against-alzheimers-disease-new
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