Of all of the diagnoses a doctor could give, Alzheimer’s disease has to be one of the scariest.
Watching a loved one go through the confusion, memory loss, and personality change associated with dementia is heart wrenching. Perhaps the worst part is the utter hopelessness of the diagnosis. There’s no cure, and there’s no real way to slow it. It’s a disease that marches on at its own pace.
Which is why a study out of Temple University in Philadelphia caught my attention. The study significantly links the consumption of extra virgin olive oil to healthier brains and decreased incidences of Alzheimer’s disease.
What the Study Showed
The Temple University researchers took two groups of mice and fed them the same diets with one exception: one group received extra virgin olive oil and the other did not. At nine and twelve months, the extra virgin olive oil group performed significantly better when tested for memory and cognitive function. And that wasn’t all.
When it came time to test the mice’s brain cells, the researchers discovered something exciting—the nerve cells in the two groups were distinctly different.
The group that had been receiving extra virgin olive oil had greater rates of something called “autophagy”. This is the process by which the body detoxifies itself of dead or diseased cells.
When this process slows or becomes inefficient, plaque builds up in the brain. So the slowing of autophagy, and the plaque build-up that comes with it, are considered first signs of Alzheimer’s disease. But by triggering autophagy and keeping the process efficient, olive oil seems to ensure the process doesn’t slow and the plaque doesn’t build up.
In other words, extra virgin olive oil helps protect the brain itself
One in a Long Line of Studies
If you’re concerned that this is only one study, don’t be. Several studies over the years have linked extra virgin olive oil and its omega-3 fatty acids to reduced rates of dementia.
Another, earlier animal study got the same results as the one out of Philadelphia. And a long-term human study showed the results are valid in people as well as animals, especially when compared to a low-fat diet. So, up until now, we knew that a diet high in extra virgin olive oil was good for us. Now, thanks to the Temple University study, not only do we know that extra virgin olive oil protects against Alzheimer’s disease, we know why.
No, we haven’t found a cure for Alzheimer’s disease yet, but thanks to the latest study, we’re closer than we ever have been. It certainly means there’s a little more hope where there used to be hopelessness.