Olive oil (Wikimedia Commons)

Researchers at Temple University have found that extra-virgin olive oil can help to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease, a new study says.

 

A paper published Wednesday in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology by researchers at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University found that extra-virgin olive oil protects memory and learning ability in mice.

 

The popular cooking product actually reduces the formation of amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, which researchers said are classic markers of Alzheimer's disease, researchers said.

 

“We found that olive oil reduces brain inflammation but most importantly activates a process known as autophagy,” explained Domenico Praticò, Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology and the Center for Translational Medicine, in a statement on the findings. “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.”

 

Autophagy, researchers said, is the process by which cells break down and clear out intracellular debris and toxins, such as amyloid plaques and "tau tangles." In a statement, researchers explained that phosphorylated tau “is responsible for neurofibrillary tangles, which are suspected of contributing to the nerve cell dysfunction in the brain that is responsible for Alzheimer's memory symptoms.”

In order to investigate the relationship between extra-virgin olive oil and dementia, Praticò and colleagues divided mice into two groups – one group was fed a diet that included extra-virgin olive oil and one group wasn’t, researchers explained.

By the time the mice had reached between nine months to a year old, the animals who were fed extra-virgin olive oil, researchers said, “performed significantly better on tests designed to evaluate working memory, spatial memory, and learning abilities.”

“This is an exciting finding for us,” explained Praticò, in a statement. “This is a very important discovery, since we suspect that a reduction in autophagy marks the beginning of Alzheimer's disease.”

Next, researchers plan to investigate if extra virgin olive oil has any effect on older mice who have already begin to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease, Temple noted.

“Usually when a patient sees a doctor for suspected symptoms of dementia, the disease is already present,” Praticò said in a statement. “We want to know whether olive oil added at a later time point in the diet can stop or reverse the disease.”