As one of the main staples of the Mediterrenean diet, extra virgin olive oil has already been praised by nutritionists for its ability to massage your cardiovascular system, especially when compared to other kitchen staples like butter or margarine. But extra virgin olive oil could also provide greater benefits for your mental health when compared to coconut or avocado oil, per new research published in the journal Aging Cell this week. New research has found that making EVOO one of your diet's staples could help keep your memory skills intact as you age and may also greatly reduce your risk of dementia in later years.
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The research, which was published after conducting various tests on mice, suggests that the purest forms of olive oil can help break down the buildup of an abnormal protein in the brain. While the scientific community has failed to discover a singular cause of Alzheimer's Disease and dementia, many experts regard the elevated presence of tau (a kind of protein) in the brain as a main marker for the disease, as they can interrupt important communication functions. The newly-published research found that diets high in extra virgin olive oil can effectively decrease the build-up of tau and possibly slow or stop advancing neurodegenerative diseases.
The smaller-scale study followed 16 different mice that were prone to increased tau levels in the brain as they ate a diet rich in extra virgin olive oil for six months. Afterwards, they were tested on their memory retention skills as well as general learning abilities—their results were compared to 15 different mice that ate normal diets. The group that enjoyed high amounts of olive oil demonstrated vast improvement in many areas, including spatial memory and learning memory, as well as increased activity in their hippocampus (the area of the brain that creates memories). Researchers at Temple University as well as Sapienza University of Rome linked those changes to decreased tau levels in their brains.
Extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants and has been known to decrease inflammation; its potential mental health properties are the latest addition to a laundry list of holistic benefits. Many home cooks choose to use it in place of other oils when sautéing and pan frying, but simply pairing it with vegetables in your daily diet could provide the same health benefits touted by medical professionals.