There is a heightened interest in the use of olive oil and dementia prevention.
This is after recent studies on mice suggested that consuming extra virgin oil plays a significant role in the prevention of the accumulation of protein tau, which is one of the hallmarks of different types of dementia.
In the past, extra virgin oil has been known for its ability to reduce the risk of heart disease and high cholesterol.
This is because it is rich in monounsaturated or “good” fatty acids.
There may be added benefits of extra virgin oil, seeing that many studies report that it also has some cognitive and neuroprotective benefits.
Check out brief details of some of the studies below.
Does Olive Oil Help Dementia?
Olive Oil Can Help to Improve Memory and Learning
A study conducted in 2012 on mice explains that extra virgin oil enhances the rodents’ performance in memory tests and they also record improvement in learning.
The alleged reason for these findings is that the oil contains high levels of powerful antioxidant compounds known as polyphenols.
These might reverse age or disease-related memory impairment and learning.
Extra Virgin Oil May Reduce Early Neurological Dementia Signs
neurological dementia signs” width=”1000″ height=”788″ class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-11129″ />
When looking into the issue of olive oil and dementia, it is important to refer to a study that was published in the journal Aging Cell in November 2019.
It stated that in mice, olive oil reduced some of the early neurological signs of dementia specifically Alzheimer’s disease.
Intervention from the extra virgin oil helped to reduce inflammation in the brain, but most importantly, activates autophagy.
This is a process where the brain cells break down and eliminate intracellular toxins and debris like tau tangles and amyloid plaques.
The process helped to maintain the integrity of the mice’s synapses which refer to the connection between neurons.
Dr. Domenico Pratico a professor at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine in the Department of Pharmacology and Microbiology at Temple University fronted the research.
He and his team opted to take this route with their study after previous research done by investigators at the same medical institution has concluded that consuming extra virgin oil protects against Alzheimer’s disease and prevents loss of memory.
Neurological benefits of olive oil
Dr. Pratico and his team of researchers also conducted another study on the neurological benefits of olive oil. His team took to study the effect of extra virgin oil on tauopathies.
These are known as cognitive conditions that are age-related where protein tau accumulates in the brain triggering the development of dementia because of their toxicity levels.
The team, while seeking to uncover the relationship between olive oil and dementia, adopted an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model referred to as the triple transgenic model.
In this case, the mice develop three main characteristics of the illness i.e. neurofibrillary tangles, amyloid plagues, and memory impairment.
There were two groups of mice in the study to give researchers a clear picture of the results. They gave one set of mice prone to the accumulations of tau, a chow diet rich in virgin oil.
The other group of mice was put on a regular chow diet even though they were also prone to toxic levels of tau accumulations.
The extra virgin oil the experts used to feed the mice in the lab was from Italy’s Apulia region. A chemical analysis revealed that extra virgin oil had a polyphenol count of up to 253 milligrams for every kilogram.
The levels of different forms of vitamin E (tocopherol a & y) were also measured at 381 milligrams for each Kg and 23 milligrams per kilo respectively.
The researchers fed the mice with extra virgin oil from the age of 6 months, which is equivalent to about 30 years in humans.
Extra virgin olive oil has positive effects
After about one year, which is equal to around 60 years in human beings, the researchers documented their findings.
Note that in overall appearance, it did not appear as though there were significant differences in the two groups of mice.
However, the researchers found that the set of mice that were on a diet rich in extra virgin oil had 60% fewer tau deposits than the ones on the regular diet.
The results further stated that mice that were on extra virgin oil also gave a better performance in standard in various learning ability, working and spatial memory tests.
The research group went ahead to analyze brain tissues from both groups of rodents.
They discovered substantial differences in the appearance and function of the nerve cell. Among these includes synaptic integrity. Dr. Domenico explained that synapses which are the integrity of the connections between neurons were preserved in the mice that were consuming an extra virgin oil diet.
There was also an increase in autophagy activation in the nerve cells in the same group of mice, which was responsible for the reduction of phosphorylated tau and amyloid plaque levels.
The study of olive oil and dementia show positive results
As a result of the autophagy, synaptic integrity and memory were also preserved. This was a significant discovery in the study of olive oil and dementia, according to Dr. Pratico, because he believes that autophagy reduction leads to the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease.
The research team plans to further this research by investigating the effects of giving extra virgin oil to mice that are 12 years old. They want to see if it will have any positive impact on mice that have developed tangles and plaques already.
Dr. Domenico explained that in most cases when a person visits the doctor while suspecting that they have dementia, the illness is usually present.
The study aims at knowing whether extra virgin oil has the same results when added at a later time. The results may determine at what point people need to start consuming the oil to reverse or stop dementia.
Olive Oil and Dementia Closing Remarks
The studies on olive oil and dementia are not yet sufficient. Additional research needs to be done to fully understand the impact that extra virgin oil has on the protection against various forms of dementia.
Future research may be directed towards learning about the mechanisms that the oil uses to support brain health.