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Extra virgin olive oil may reduce Alzheimer’s risk, study reports

Reprinted from an article by Joseph Scalise in Science Recorder, June 22, 2017

Researchers from Temple University have found that extra virgin olive oil may help protect against memory loss and reduce many of the conditions associated with Alzheimer’s disease, a new study published in the journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology reports.

The team made this discovery by looking at how olive oil–enriched diets affected the memory and learning abilities of mice. To do this, they split the rodents into two groups: one that ate olive oil and one that did not. While all of the mice looked the same after months on their respective diets, the rodents on the olive oil diet had better working and spatial memory than those that ate normal food.

Olive oil is the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet and has been linked to numerous health benefits. This study builds on previous research by showing more of its advantages. Not only did the oil reduce brain inflammation, it also activated the autophagy process, which removes debris and toxins—including ones associated with Alzheimer’s—from the brain.

“The thinking is that extra-virgin olive oil is better than fruits and vegetables alone, and, as a monounsaturated vegetable fat, it is healthier than saturated animal fats,” said study co-author Domenico Praticò, a researcher at Temple University, in a statement.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in the United States. There is currently no cure. Estimates from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that 5 million Americans contracted the illness in 2013, and that number is expected to rise to 14 million by 2050.

Researchers hope findings such as this can spur new studies and lead to a better understanding of how diet affects neurological disorders. They plan to follow up on their study by introducing extra virgin olive oil later on in the aging process to see what other benefits it might have.

“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,” Praticò said, according to USA Today. “We want to know whether olive oil added at a later time point in the diet can stop or reverse the disease.”