The Mediterranean diet has long been credited for its many health benefits, including a lower incidence of dementia.
Now, researchers from Temple University have identified a simple ingredient that wards off cognitive decline: Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO).
Researchers were able to show that consumption of EVOO protected memory and learning ability, as well as reduced the formation of amyloid-beta plaque, a classic marker for Alzheimer's disease.
The research team also identified why these protective effects occurred. "We found that olive oil reduces brain inflammation but most importantly activates a process known as autophagy," explained senior investigator Domenico Praticò, MD. "Autophagy" is the process by which cells break down and clear out intracellular debris and toxins, such as amyloid plaque.
The next phase of this research will help determine whether EVOO is preventive in nature, or can be taken later to reverse the disease once it manifests.