Researchers at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine found that consuming olive oil reduces the risk of dementia.
According to the study, published in the medical journal Aging Cell last week, extra virgin olive oil improves brain activity and memory while decreasing the accumulation of tau, a protein whose buildup causes a decline in brain function, in mice.
The oil essentially helps to preserve the part of the brain that is responsible for memory and cognition, said Domenico Praticò, the Scott Richards North Star Charitable Foundation Chair for Alzheimer’s Research at Temple.
“The olive oil basically activates the system in the nerve cell, so therefore, the nerve cells can protect themselves from this accumulation,” Praticò said.
In 2017, researchers at the Alzheimer’s Center at Temple found that extra virgin olive oil reduced the formation of amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, two red flags for Alzheimer’s disease, according to a release from the medical school.
In the new study, Temple researchers and a researcher at Sapienza University of Rome set out to determine whether extra virgin olive oil’s positive effects held true for forms of dementia besides Alzheimer’s, Praticò said.
Dementia is a term for a group of symptoms severely affecting memory, thinking and social abilities, according to Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s disease is a specific form of dementia that is most common in older adults.
“In other words, we add another piece of this puzzle and further support the idea that this could be, really, in the future, a medical intervention,” Praticò added.
The benefits of the oil on the brain will not manifest with short-term usage, Praticò said, adding that patients would have to make a lifestyle change before seeing effects.
“It’s not a magic little potion you’re taking,” he said. “It’s a chronic effect.”
Richard Isaacson, the director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College, has recommended extra virgin olive oil to his patients for years based on its positive effects on cholesterol health, he said.
“What I believe is that extra virgin olive oil has to be one of the important primary components of an anti-Alzheimer’s plan,” Isaacson said.
The next task of the Temple researchers is to examine whether extra virgin olive oil can help reduce the risk of other degenerative diseases, like Parkinson’s disease, Praticò said.
“This step, this study brings us one step closer to understanding the exact type of patients that we should really be advocating for the use of extra virgin olive oil,” Isaacson said.