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Scientists Determine Why Olive Oil Helps Fight Alzheimer's Disease

Mar 20, 2013 01:43 PM EDT

Consumption of olive oil has recently been linked with a lowered risk of Alzheimer's disease due to the compound oleocanthal that is present in the oil, and an advanced study by a team from the University of Louisiana has determined that oleocanthal contributes to fighting the disease by evacuating the abnormal proteins associated with Alzheimer's disease out of the brain.

Oleocanthal belongs to a chemical group called polyphenols which have already been associated with healthful properties, such as being strong antioxidants. Polyphenols are known to enhance the immune system, protect from heart disease and act as free radical traps that can aid in anti-cancer treatments.

In 2009 a study determined that oleocanthal could change cell structure in a way that could fight Alzheimer's, but exactly why oleocanthal was changing those cells remained a mystery.

The new study, led by Amal Kaddoumi, sought evidence on whether oleocanthal helps decrease the accumulation of beta-amyloid in the brain. Beta-amyloid is believed to be the culprit in Alzheimer's disease, which slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and eventually the ability to complete simple tasks.

Some 5 million Americans and 30 million people worldwide may have Alzheimer's disease.

A study concluding that deaths from Alzheimer's disease have risen significantly in the U.S. over the last decade was released earlier this week and that one in three seniors die with Alzheimer's disease.

Kaddoumi's team tracked the effects of oleocanthal from extra virgin olive oil in brains and cultured brain cells in laboratory mice. The findings showed an 80 percent clearance of beta-amyloid from the mice brains.

The findings provide experimental support that potential reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease associated with extra-virgin olive oil could be mediated by enhancement of Beta-amyloid clearance from the brain.

"Extra-virgin olive oil-derived oleocanthal associated with the consumption of Mediterranean diet has the potential to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease or related neurodegenerative dementias," the report concludes.

The full report is published in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience.

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