As I get older, I’m always on the lookout for news about keeping Alzheimer’s disease at bay. So I was thrilled about a new study suggesting that a natural compound which gives good olive oil it’s peppery kick – oleocanthol – may also help “shuttle” abnormal Alzheimer’s disease proteins from the brain.
Researchers at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, who prepared the study, noted that Alzheimer’s disease (AD) affects about 30 million people worldwide. But the prevalence is lower in Mediterranean countries.
“Extra virgin olive oil-derived oleocanthal associated with the consumption of (the) Mediterranean diet has the potential to reduce the risk of AD or related neurodegenerative dementias,” the study concluded. It appears in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience. (Click here to see a news release about the study.)
Scientists once attributed the lower level of Alzheimer’s disease in Mediterranean countries to olive oil’s high concentration of healthful monounsaturated fats. The traditional Mediterranean diet is rich in olive oil as well as seafood, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.
More recent research suggested the true protective agent in olive oil may be oleocanthal, which has effects that protect nerve cells from the kind of damage that occurs in Alzheimer’s disease, according to the researchers. (Oleocanthol also has been found to be a naturally occurring antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.)
Researchers at the University of Louisiana at Monroe focused on whether oleocanthal helps lower the brain’s accumulation of beta-amyloid (Aβ), believed to be the culprit behind Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers described tracking the effects of oleocanthal in the brains and cultured brain cells of lab mice used as stand-ins for humans in such research. In both instances, according to the researchers, oleocanthal showed a consistent pattern in which it boosted production of two proteins and key enzymes believed to be critical in removing Aβ from the brain.
It’s one more reason why I’ll be pouring on the olive oil at tonight’s dinner table.