Extra-virgin olive oil consumption protects against the loss of memory and lean ring capacity, and also against the formation of amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain (markers for Alzheimer’s disease), according to new research from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM).
The new findings are detailed in a paper published in the journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.
With regard to the pathway that the protection takes, researcher Domenico Praticò, MD, Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology and the Center for Translational Medicine at LKSOM, noted: “We found that olive oil reduces brain inflammation but most importantly activates a process known as autophagy.”
“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,” Dr Praticò continued.
Autophagy is of course the process by which cells in a body consume diseased, old cells and/or intracellular debris and toxins.
“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,” Dr Praticò finished.
The press release provides background: “In order to investigate 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, the animals develop three key characteristics of the disease: memory impairment, amyloid plagues, and neurofibrillary tangles.”
“The researchers divided the animals 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. The olive oil was introduced into the diet when the mice were 6 months old, before symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease begin to emerge in the animal model.”
“In overall appearance, there was no difference between the two groups of animals. However, at age 9 months and 12 months, mice on the extra virgin olive oil-enriched diet performed significantly better on tests designed to evaluate working memory, spatial memory, and learning abilities.”
“Studies of brain tissue from both groups of mice revealed dramatic differences in nerve cell appearance and function.”
“This is an exciting finding for us,” concluded Dr Praticò. “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.”
While the findings are interesting, I really have to wonder about the current paradigm of scientific enquiry….