A new study by researchers at Temple University has demonstrated that consuming extra virgin olive oil in early adulthood can protect against dementia.
The results of the new research published on November 24, 2019 in the journal Aging Cell reveal that extra virgin olive oil consumption delays the onset of cognitive impairment and dementia by slowing down a group of diseases known as taupathies.
The realization that extra virgin olive oil can protect the brain against different forms of dementia gives us an opportunity to learn more about the mechanisms through which it acts to support brain health.
This type of mental decline occurs when a protein called tau accumulates in the brain and results in a decline in cognitive function known as tauopathy, or frontotemporal dementia.
The research team was made up of five scientists from Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine and the Department of Medico-Surgical Sciences and Biotechnology at Sapienza University of Rome.
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As part of the study “Extra virgin olive oil improves synaptic activity, short-term plasticity, memory, and neuropathology in a tauopathy model,” the researchers fed extra virgin olive oil to a group of lab mice engineered to develop dementia and of an age that would be comparable to 30 or 40 years in humans.
They found that the mice who were fed the olive oil diet were 60 percent less likely to develop tau deposits in the brain compared to those who were not given extra virgin olive oil. The same mice also showed improved performance on memory and learning tests.
The extra virgin olive oil used to feed the lab mice was from the Apulia region of Italy with a total polyphenol count of 253 milligram per kilogram, while levels of α-tocopherol and γ-tocopherol (forms of Vitamin E) were measured at 381 milligram per kilogram and 23 milligram per kilogram, respectively, through chemical analysis.
The study points out that there has been increasing evidence in recent years of the benefits of consuming extra virgin olive oil for brain health and lowering the risks of Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive impairment, and dementia.
Previous research conducted by investigators at the same school of medicine had concluded that consumption of extra virgin olive oil prevents memory loss and protects against Alzheimer’s disease.
“Extra virgin olive oil has been a part of the human diet for a very long time and has many benefits for health, for reasons that we do not yet fully understand,” said Dr Domenico Praticò, director of the Alzheimer’s Center at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine and one of the researchers.
“The realization that extra virgin olive oil can protect the brain against different forms of dementia gives us an opportunity to learn more about the mechanisms through which it acts to support brain health,” he added. “We are particularly interested in knowing whether extra virgin olive oil can reverse tau damage and ultimately treat tauopathy in older mice.”
The results of this study suggest that thanks to its beneficial properties – including extra virgin olive oil’s high polyphenol content, which acts as an antioxidant – its consumption in early adulthood can limit cognitive decline and the onset of age-related illnesses, including dementia.