Diet & Nutrition

Extra virgin olive oil could help protect your brain from Alzheimer’s

Tests reveal extra virgin olive oil triggers a process called 'nerve cell autophagy' removing chemicals in the brain before they have a chance to cause the onset of Alzheimer’s.

By Holly Royce
New research suggests that consuming extra virgin olive oil could protect our brains from the onset of Alzheimer’s.
The benefits of the Mediterranean diet, especially those of extra virgin olive oil are being proven once again with new research suggesting consuming the oil can remove and even destroy chemicals in the brain which can build up and cause the onset of Alzheimer’s.
The study, published in Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology this month, conducted long-term testing on mice and found the difference in brain function and tissue could only be attributed to diet, specifically the consumption of extra virgin olive oil from a young age.
Senior study author, Domenico Praticò, MD said of the findings,
“Thanks to the autophagy activation, memory and synaptic integrity were preserved, and the pathological effects in animals otherwise destined to develop Alzheimer’s disease were significantly reduced. This is a very important discovery since we suspect that a reduction in autophagy marks the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease.”

What is the Mediterranean diet?

This is all fantastic news for lovers and followers of the already celebrated Mediterranean diet.
Traditionally the was the diet consumed by countries around the Mediterranean sea, prior to about 1960 and it was a vegetable, plant-based diet that used extra virgin olive oil daily.
It also used red wine most days and it used whole grains as opposed to refined grains.
A lot of attention has been focused on the extra-virgin olive oil daily intake, which is estimated to be quite high in the Mediterranean area populations compared with other geographical regions around the world.
It’s more than a healthy eating plan – the diet is recognised by UNESCO for its intangible cultural heritage. It’s a way of life where, traditionally, meals were prepared from scratch and eaten slowly in the company of loved ones.
A bit more about extra virgin olive oil
Bitter and peppery extra virgin olive oil doesn’t just help make food taste delicious, it enhances the health benefits too. “Extra virgin olive oil is a medicinal food,” says Sue Radd, director of the Nutrition and Wellbeing Clinic. “When combined with a Mediterranean diet the oil is linked with a lowered risk of breast cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart disease.
It’s known to lower blood pressure and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, and reduce the spike in your blood sugar after a meal,” she explains. Radd recommends consuming three tablespoons a day in your cooking, on bread, or drizzled over salads and cooked vegetables. She also suggests using it instead of margarine, butter, canola oil and sunflower oil.
A recent study for the World Cancer Research Fund has found that following the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of one of the most deadly forms of breast cancer by as much as 40 percent.
The potentially fatal form of the disease, that's not stimulated by sex hormone estrogen, is often harder to treat, with one third of breast cancer cases falling into this category.
“We found a strong link between the Mediterranean diet and reduced oestrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women, even in a non-Mediterranean population," says lead researcher, Prof Piet van den Brandt of Maastricht University.
"This type of breast cancer usually has a worse prognosis than other types of breast cancer.”
We've never been more excited about eating a salad.