Health researchers say they have cracked the mystery of how extra virgin olive oil can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.
In a new report in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience, the researchers said they have determined a key component of olive oil helps remove abnormal proteins tied to Alzheimer’s from the brain.
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Amal Kaddoumi and colleagues said their research indicates a substance called oleocanthal appears to protect nerve cells from the kind of damage that typically occurs in Alzheimer’s patients.
Kaddoumi's team noted Alzheimer’s affects about 30 million people worldwide, but the prevalence is lower in Mediterranean countries. Scientists have suspected the high concentration of healthful monounsaturated fats in olive oil — consumed in large amounts in the Mediterranean diet — may be a factor, but had not determined precisely why or how.
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To solve the mystery, Kaddoumi's team studied the impact of oleocanthal on the accumulation of beta-amyloid proteins that clump together in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s, causing memory loss and other mental declines.
The researchers tracked the effects of oleocanthal in the brains and cultured brain cells of laboratory mice, used as stand-ins for humans in such research. In both cases, Kaddoumi's team found that oleocanthal boosted production of two proteins and key enzymes that remove beta-amyloid proteins from the brain.
Kaddoumi said the findings suggest olive oil might point the way to new treatments for Alzheimer’s patients and may help prevent the debilitating, often fatal disease.
"Extra-virgin olive oil-derived oleocanthal associated with the consumption of Mediterranean diet has the potential to reduce the risk of [Alzheimer’s] or related neurodegenerative dementias," the researcheres concluded.
The study was funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health.
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