Consumption of extra-virgin olive oil reduces the risk of dementia, inflammation of the brain and Alzheimer, according to a new study.
The study, published in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, was carried out by researchers at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM).
To investigate the relationship between extra-virgin olive oil and dementia, the researchers used an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model known as a triple transgenic model.
The mice were divided into two groups; one that received a chow diet enriched with extra-virgin olive oil and one that received the regular chow diet without it.
Olive oil was introduced into the diet when the mice were six months old before symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease begin to emerge in the animal model.
At age 9 months and 12 months, the researchers found that the mice on the extra virgin olive oil-enriched diet performed significantly better on tests designed to evaluate working memory, spatial memory, and learning abilities.
“We found that olive oil reduces brain inflammation but most importantly activates a process known as autophagy,” explained senior investigator Domenico Praticò.
“Brain cells from mice fed diets enriched with extra-virgin olive oil had higher levels of autophagy and reduced levels of amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau.
“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.
“This is an exciting finding for us. 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.
“This is a very important discovery, since we suspect that a reduction in autophagy marks the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease.”
The researchers now plan to investigate the effects of introducing extra-virgin olive oil into the diet of the same mice at 12 months, when after developing plaques and tangles, to ascertain whether olive oil can stop or reverse the disease.
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