Consumption of extra virgin olive oil has been linked to reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and its benefit may lie in one component of olive oil that helps shuttle the abnormal AD proteins out of the brain.
Alzheimer's disease affects about 30 million people worldwide but the prevalence is lower in Mediterranean countries - thus the correlation with olive oil. Scientists once attributed it to the high concentration of healthful monounsaturated fats in olive oil, which is consumed in large amounts in the Mediterranean diet.
Recent research also suggested that the actual protective agent might be a substance called oleocanthal, which has effects that protect nerve cells from the kind of damage that occurs in AD. Kaddoumi's team sought evidence on whether oleocanthal helps decrease the accumulation of beta-amyloid (Aβ) in the brain, believed to be the culprit in AD.
In their paper, Amal Kaddoumi and colleagues describe tracking 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 instances, 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.
"Extra-virgin olive oil-derived oleocanthal associated with the consumption of Mediterranean diet has the potential to reduce the risk of AD or related neurodegenerative dementias," the report concludes.
Published in ACS Chemical Neuroscience.