Just a few years ago, it seemed like everyone was talking about olive oil. Touted especially for cardiovascular health, it seemed like olive oil was the best thing since sliced bread (although it had been around centuries before sliced bread was imagined). Today it seems the oil pressed from olives has slipped out of sight as other foods such as coconut oil and pomegranates take front and center of everyone’s attention. However, a peak at some recent research regarding the effect of olive oil on neurological function, leads us to believe it is time to keep that extra virgin olive oil in your dietary consumption.
Inspiring the Research
Many people around the world have been impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, either through personal experience, a relative, or friends with the disease. In fact, approximately 30 million people worldwide have the disease. Interestingly, researchers have discovered that the rate of Alzheimer’s in the Mediterranean is far lower than in other parts of the world. Seeking reasons for this phenomenon, scientists turned to a staple in the Mediterranean diet: olive oil, and made an interesting discovery.
Nature’s Shuttle Service
Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the accumulation of certain proteins (B-amyloid and tau) in the brain that are not flushed out. It is these proteins that cause the damage in the brain, producing the classic symptoms of both dementia and Alzheimer’s. A certain substance in olive oil, called oleocanthal, provides a remarkable service to the brain, acting as a shuttle service to help flush the harmful proteins out of the brain. Researchers from the University of Louisiana at Monroe demonstrated that oleocanthal increased the brain’s ability to remove the damaging proteins by stimulating other proteins that flush the harmful cells out of the brain.
Before you write this information off because you think you’re too young to worry about Alzheimer’s or neurodegenerative dementia, it is important to realize that the accumulation of the degenerative proteins in the brain starts years before any symptoms appear. In other words, young people, especially those with a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s, could be on the path toward the disease long before they are ready to think about it. Researchers concluded that there is strong potential for the consumption of extra virgin olive oil to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia, providing plenty of motivation to keep or start including the fruit of the olive tree in your daily diet. How much to consume? The typical Mediterranean diet includes approximately 1/5 of a cup or a little over three tablespoons daily.
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