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A new study by a research team at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) has linked extra-virgin olive oil to a reduction of risk for Alzheimers disease. This oil has been shown to prevent cognitive decline.
The researchers have shown that consuming extra-virgin olive oil protects memory and preserves the ability to learn. It also stops the formation of the amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles within the brain. These two are the classic hallmarks or Alzheimers disease.
The researchers explained that there is a process called autophagy by which the cells break down and clean the toxins and the resultant debris including the amyloid plaques and the tau tangles that are characteristic of Alzheimers disease.
In their experiment when the mice were fed extra virgin olive oil rich diets, the levels of autophagy rose. This reduces the levels of amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau significantly.
Phosphorylated tau leads to formation of neurofibrillary tangles and this leads to nerve cell dysfunction and memory symptoms related to Alzheimer’s disease. Reducing phosphorylated tau could thus be protective.
The benefits of Mediterranean food has been studied previously in details but this is the first time that it was found that rather than the fruits and vegetables component of that diet, it the olive oil that is benefitting the brain health more. It is a monounsaturated vegetable fat and is better than saturated animal fats.
As a next step to their study, the team plans to introduce the extra virgin olive oil at the age of 12 months in the mice. This is the age when the mice have already developed that characteristic brain markers of Alzheimers disease including plaques and tangles.
This is parallel to a person who has begun to show the features of dementia at the onset of the disease. Researchers explained that they would like to investigate if diet change after the onset of the disease could stop, reverse or slow its progress.