Does extra virgin olive oil help with Alzheimer’s prevention?

Most likely you were already aware that extra virgin olive oil is the best source of fat that you can add to your diet. It has been proven to be a key ingredient for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases thanks to the prevalence of oleic acid (monounsaturated fatty acid of the Omega 9 series) and other polyunsaturated acids (such as Omega 3 and Omega 6). Even so, the benefits of extra virgin olive oil do go further. Due to its antioxidants and vitamins, it has been proven that this food also protects us from cognitive decline, and from the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

The advantages of extra virgin olive oil for Alzheimer’s prevention

  1. How does Alzheimer’s roughly work?
  2. How does extra virgin olive oil protect us?
  3. Why does the Mediterranean diet benefit us?

1. How does Alzheimer’s roughly work?

Despite the fact that an occasional memory loss is quite common among older people when this becomes a routine, we are talking about an aggravated cognitive deterioration associated with Alzheimer’s. That is, when memory loss is frequent, and the person increasingly becomes disoriented, has attention issues, and suffers from mood and energy changes.

Alzheimer’s is a serious cognitive disease that directly affects the memory and behaviour of the patient who’s suffering it. This pathology, unfortunately, affects a large percentage of people over 65 years old, who need help to adapt their daily routine. Furthermore, it’s been observed how this disease symptoms progress as patients aged. In fact, half of them are over 85 years old, increasing their need for care.

In short, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disorder that today has no cure. So what can be done to prevent Alzheimer’s? To get started, as we’ll see below, it’s advised to take preventive measures among which, we find the extra virgin olive oil intake, according to recent studies.

extra virgin olive oil helps preventing cognitive impairment
Extra virgin olive oil helps to prevent cognitive impairment

2. How does extra virgin olive oil protect us?

As we have previously said, extra virgin olive oil has a great deal of health benefits. In addition, a team of researchers from the USA, specifically from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, has carried out an experiment with transgenic Alzheimer’s mice to study what effect extra virgin olive oil could have on this disease.

First, in these tests rodents were first genetically modified to show the main features of Alzheimer’s: cognitive impairment, excess production and accumulation of beta-amyloid (which causes injury and consequent destruction of brain neurons), and neurofibrillary tangles (protein threads that wrap around neurons and prevent them from feeding, whereupon they die).

Then, they were divided into two groups in which different diets were applied, in order to study the progress of their cognitive abilities through a series of memory and learning tests. On the one hand, the first study group had a diet including grains with extra virgin olive oil. And on the other hand, the second control group had a diet without this fat source.

After a year of evaluation, the scientists concluded that the first group of study, feeding on extra virgin olive oil, performed better in memory tests than the second group of rodents.

More specifically, it was observed that the brain tissue (that is, nerve cells) of the first group of rodents retained a greater capacity for autophagy, which was equivalent to a greater capacity to feed on toxins, thus reducing the accumulation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangle, which were causing cognitive impairment.

Moreover, another team from a US Pharmaceutical School, specifically from Auburn University, led by Amal Kaddoumi (specialist in neuro-pharmacology and brain research) conducted clinical trials on oleocanthal and its therapeutic properties against Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment.

Oleocanthal is an organic substance naturally present in some extra virgin olive oils and is part of their polyphenolic compounds, which we know for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. And according to the study, this compound has been shown to have beneficial effects in degenerative and neurodegenerative diseases with chronic inflammation processes.

So to summarise, extra virgin olive oil is a food product of the Mediterranean diet able to protect our brain against the advancement of Alzheimer’s and even other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.

3. Why does the Mediterranean diet benefit us?

In the 1960s, the biologist Ancel Keys, who carried out an epidemiological study on eating habits and their relationship with health in which several countries participated, concluded that the regions near the Mediterranean developed fewer cardiovascular diseases and certain types of cancer.

With the Mediterranean diet coinage at that time and the assertion that it was one of the best diets to stop the development of these pathologies, subsequent studies followed. These would analyse the effect on the population of certain key foods in this diet, such as extra virgin olive oil.

In addition to the aforementioned studies, it’s worth mentioning the one developed by PREDIMED, carried out among more than 7,000 volunteers at risk of suffering from coronary diseases and some other pathologies such as diabetes, hypertension, or problems such as for overweight, among others.

After 10 years of research, in which two study groups were also separated, it was concluded that those patients who had a Mediterranean diet, whose source of fatty acids was mainly extra virgin olive oil, but also nuts, reduced by 30% their probability of suffering strokes, myocardial infarctions, and cardiac arrhythmias. On the other hand, it was also found that there was a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes and up to 70% less incidence of breast cancer.

As we know, healthy eating and lifestyle habits are key aspects of our health. Specifically, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacity of certain foods and how rich they are in vitamins, minerals, proteins, and healthy fats, are essential for our development and our daily activity. And additionally, as the different USA studies observed, some of these ingredients are essential for cognitive development and its maintenance.

In short, following a Mediterranean diet, and keeping extra virgin olive oil as the main source of healthy fats, has multiple advantages for the health of our hearts and minds. Cooking with this product and basing the diet on vegetables, fruits, legumes, fish, and lean meats, along with regular physical activity and a good rest, is equivalent to good health.

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