Extra virgin olive oil is not only beneficial for the heart, but it's also good for the brain, a new mice study revealed.
Past research has shown the life-changing benefits of eating the Mediterranean diet, which includes high consumption of olive oil and vegetables. For instance, a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil has been found to boost good cholesterol and protect your heart health.
Now, scientists from Temple University in Pennsylvania discovered that using extra virgin olive oil in your meals might preserve memory and stave off neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease.
How Extra Virgin Olive Oil Is Good For The Brain
In the new study, researchers conducted tests on mice that were engineered to develop brain changes such as symptoms of Alzheimer's.
Results of mice tests often do not hold up when tested with people, but this new research has shown promise, said Domenico Pratico, senior investigator of the study.
He said there has already been evidence that people who eat Mediterranean diet have lower risks of developing dementia when they grow old. Pratico and his colleagues attempted to explain why.
Mice in the study had memory problems as well as masses of amyloid and tau in their brain. Twelve mice ate pellets made of corn, wheat, and milk protein, with minerals and vitamins. Ten of these twelve mice also received small daily servings of extra virgin olive oil for six months.
The extra virgin olive oil used in the study was cold pressed and first extraction, a type of olive oil that was a little pricey but often found in grocery stores.
At six, nine, and 12 months old, the mice underwent memory tests and were graded by other researchers who did not know what the mice had been eating.
In the end, Pratico and his team found that the mice that ate pellets with extra virgin olive oil did approximately 40 percent better on tests of working memory and a more advanced activity that involved mazes. Tests on working memory are similar to holding thoughts in a person's mind while doing a task.
The mice that ate pellets with extra virgin olive oil also had 40 percent less tau and 60 percent less amyloid in their brains.
Researchers also discovered that the nerve cells of these mice were functioning better. Furthermore, extra virgin olive oil seemed to benefit autophagy in mice, which deals with the destruction of cells.
"We found olive oil reduces brain inflammation but most importantly activates a process known as autophagy," said Pratico.
In the meantime, Pratico and his research team plan to investigate how extra virgin olive oil can impact engineered mice once they develop key traits of Alzheimer's disease.
Details of the study are featured in the journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.