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By: Maayan Kfir

A diet rich in olive oil stops Alzheimer’s disease even in mice genetically predisposed to the disease!

What the sages of the Talmud told us millennia ago about the properties of olive oil is being confirmed by modern research. Researchers from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine in Temple University found a specific compound that protects against loss of cognitive function: extra virgin olive oil! Studies showed thatconsuming extra virgin olive oil protects the ability to learn and remember and also prevents the creation of amyloid (starch like protein) deposits in the brain which bring on Alzheimer’s.

Researchers also found the mechanism that brings the protection offered by olive oil. “We’ve found that that olive oil reduces inflammation in the brain and more importantly it activates ‘autophagy’ a process in which the brain destroys unnecessary cells and toxic deposits such as amyloids.”

Earlier studies found that the high consumption of olive oil was one of the contributing factors to the benefits attributed to a Mediterranean diet. To check if there is a correlation between olive oil consumption and lower risk of dementia, researchers used mice with a genetic disposition to develop Alzheimer’s. From the age of six months, before showing any signs of reduced cognitive function, the researchers divided the mice into two groups. One group continued a regular diet and the other group received a diet high in olive oil. At nine months and twelve months the mice were tested for cognitive ability, and the mice who consumed olive oil always scored far higher. In addition, tissue tests of their brains showed dramatic differences. The cells and synapses of the mice that had theolive oil were in far better shape than those who did not. Likewise, amyloid deposits were far smaller in those mice who consumed olive oil, which demonstrated effective autophagy was taking place in their brains.

The researchers say: “This is a very dramatic finding because we’re talking about an animal with a genetic disposition to Alzheimer’s that was stopped in it’s tracks – probably because Alzheimer’s is caused by poor autophagy and waste cell disposal.”

The researchers’ next step is to mix olive oilinto the diets of 12-month old mice who already display signs of cognitive damage. “When a person comes to the doctor with symptoms of dementia, the disease is already there. We want to see if olive oil consumption will halt the progress of the ailment, or perhaps even reverse it,” say the researchers.

We believe the results will be positive, as the Gemara states: “Rabbi Yochanan says just as the olive causes one to forget seventy years of study, so does olive oil restore seventy years of study.” (Horiot 13b)