Mediterranean Diet Could Reduce Risk Of Dementia Says New Study

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Research Published In Mediterranean Diet Month Claims Major Health Benefits For Diet Including Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Updated October 20th 2021

The Mediterranean Diet And Dementia
The Mediterranean Diet And Brain Health

Contents:

Memory Loss & Dementia : A New Study

A study published earlier this year showed that following The Mediterranean Diet (high in quality olive oil) can reduce the risk of diseases which affect our brain. The study, by The American Academy of Neurology, found that adherence to the principles of The Mediterranean Diet reduce your chance of developing memory loss and Dementia.  This adds to the ever-growing list of olive oil health benefits emerging from research around the world.

Study author Tommaso Ballarini, Ph.D. explained that “Eating a diet that’s high in unsaturated fats like extra virgin olive oil, fish, fruits and vegetables and low in red meat and dairy may actually protect your brain from the protein build-up that can lead to memory loss and dementia.”

Quality extra virgin olive oil such as Morocco Gold, are one of the primary sources of healthy unsaturated fats in The Mediterranean Diet.

The study, which was published in the May 5 2021 issue of Neurology, states that the Mediterranean diet can help prevent brain-volume shrinkage that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

This diet traditionally consists primarily of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grain foods, seafood, extra virgin olive oil and wine in moderation.

Dietitian at Cleveland Clinic Kristin Kirkpatrick told Medical News Today that this diet contributes beneficial “omega-3 fatty acids, polyphenols, specific minerals, fiber, and protein”  that “may support the brain’s health and protection throughout the years.”

The Mediterranean Diet, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Alzheimer’s

Extra Virgin Olive Oil And Alzheimer's Prevention
Extra Virgin Olive Oil And Alzheimer’s Prevention

The Study has also been well received by experts in the field of Alzheimer’s Prevention.  Dr Richard Isaacson, director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York Presbyterian Hospital, recently told CNN that “in this important study, researchers showed that it’s possible to not only improve cognitive function – most specifically memory – but also reduce risk for Alzheimer’s disease pathology.”

Dr Isaacson was not involved in the study, but added that “for every point of higher compliance with the diet, people had one extra year less of brain aging.  That is striking,” CNN reported. “Most people are unaware that it’s possible to take control of your brain health, yet this study shows us just that.”

According to a report on the study in the National Herald, The study “examined 343 people at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s and compared them to 169 cognitively normal subjects,” CNN reported, adding that “first, researchers tested each person’s cognitive skills, including language, memory and executive function, and used brain scans to measure brain volume. Spinal fluid from 226 participants was also tested for amyloid and tau protein biomarkers.”

“Then people were asked how well they were following the Mediterranean diet,” CNN reported, noting that “after adjusting for factors like age, sex and education, the study found that people who did not follow the diet closely had more signs of amyloid and tau build-up in their spinal fluid than those who did adhere to the diet.”

Further Studies On The Mediterranean Diet and Brain Health

Extra Virgin Olive Oil As Part Of Mediterranean Diet
Extra Virgin Olive Oil As Part Of Mediterranean Diet

The latest research builds on the strength of previous findings which state that people who eat a Mediterranean-style diet  – known to include fish, leafy vegetables and extra virgin olive oil – increase their chances of better cognitive function later in life.

Scientific research in March from Edinburgh University, has shown that consuming lower amounts of read meat and following the principles of Mediterranean cuisine correlated with higher scores in memory and thinking tests in the over 70s.

Extra virgin olive oil is a key component of the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and nuts.

These latest findings suggest that this primarily plant-based diet may have benefits for cognitive function as we get older.

Researchers involved in the study tested the thinking skills of more than 500 people aged 79 and without dementia. The participants completed tests of problem solving, thinking speed, memory and word knowledge, as well as a questionnaire about their eating habits during the previous year.

More than 350 of the group also underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scan to gain insights into their brain structure.   The team used statistical models to look for associations between a person’s diet and their thinking skills and brain health in later life. 

The findings show that, in general, people who most closely adhered to a Mediterranean diet had the highest cognitive function scores, even when accounting for other factors, including childhood IQ, smoking, physical activity and health factors.

Dr Janie Corley, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, said:

Eating more green leafy vegetables and cutting down on red meat might be two key food elements that contribute to the benefits of the Mediterranean-style diet.”

Dr Janie Corley

Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Alzheimer’s

In 2019, researchers from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia were reported to discover that extra virgin olive oil could aid in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers found out that the most common component of the Mediterranean diet, extra virgin olive oil, boosts the cognitive performance and could prevent Alzheimer’s in genetically modified mice.  The Alzheimer’s disease mice models were said to have no changes in physical appearance after several months after the experiment. Yet, the mice fed with extra virgin olive oil were mentioned to perform better when they reached the age of 9 months and 12 months old.

This latest research from Edinburgh University adds further strength to the weight of evidence supporting the benefits of a Mediterranean Style Diet to many aspects of our overall health.

What Is In Extra Virgin Olive Oil That Helps Protect Against Dementia : Polyphenols

Polyphenols are a group of over 500 phytochemicals, which are naturally occurring micronutrients in plants. These compounds give a plant its colour and can help to protect it from various dangers. When you eat plants with polyphenols, you reap the health benefits as well.

Polyphenols In Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Polyphenols are a key component in extra virgin olive oil and are considered to be one of the best health enhancing benefits within the oil. Many of the fruits and vegetables we consume contain large numbers of compounds critical for life. One such type of compound is known as antioxidants. Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants.

Why are antioxidants so important for our health? Oxidation is a natural process our cells use to create energy from the oxygen we inhale. As energy is being produced in our cells, some oxygen molecules (known as oxygen free radicals or reactive oxygen species) are produced as a by product of these processes. These oxygen free radicals can damage your cells and DNA when in high concentration. Continuous damage by oxygen free radicals, most often termed oxidative stress, can lead to various conditions including:

  • Various forms of cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Dementia
  • Wrinkles associated with age

Unfortunately, the production of these harmful chemicals is sometimes enhanced by the environment we live in. Several lifestyle, stress and environmental factors shown to increase the production of oxygen free radicals include (but are not limited to):

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Alcohol consumption
  • High blood sugar levels
  • Air pollution
  • High intake of polyunsaturated fats
  • Excessive ultraviolet radiation exposure
  • Various bacterial or viral infections
  • Antioxidant deficiency

So how do antioxidants fit into the grand scheme of our bodies and our health? Antioxidants are chemicals known to be ‘molecular scavengers’ that help neutralize oxygen free radicals, thus preventing oxidative stress from occurring. There are hundreds of known antioxidants, some of which we consume in our daily diets:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Selenium
  • Manganese
  • Carotenoids
  • And….POLYPHENOLS?

It’s also thought that polyphenols contribute to keep the body being in an anti-inflammatory state. This is also associated with a lower risk of several chronic diseases. 

They also protect the olive oil from oxidative damage and contribute to its superior longevity and shelf life. They also affect the taste of extra virgin olive oil and give it its distinctive bitter flavour.

What Is Polyphenol Oleuropein Aglycone (OA)?

Oleuropein aglycone is a glycosylated seco-iridoid, a type of bitter phenolic compound found in green olive skin, flesh, seeds, and leaves. The term oleuropein is derived from the botanical name of the olive tree, Olea Europaea. The chemical formula is :C25H32O13.

Oleuropein aglycone is one of the chief polyphenols found in extra virgin olive oil. It is getting more and more global attention within the scientific and medical communities due to its biological properties including in anti-Alzheimer’s disease, anti-breast cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-hyperglycemic effect, and anti-oxidative properties.

OA is derived from the de-glycosylation of oleuropein that exists in the leaves and stones of the olive fruit during the maturation period and is obtained during the pressing of the olives.

The Effect Of Oleuropein Aglycone On Amyloidosis

Amyloidosis is the name for a group of rare but serious condition caused by a build-up of an abnormal protein called amyloid in organs and tissues throughout the body. The build-up of amyloid protein deposits can make it difficult for the organs and tissues to work properly.

It had been reported that the aglycone form of oleuropein interferes with the build-up of a number of proteins associated with amyloidosis, particularly affecting neuro-degenerative diseases, preventing the growth of toxic oligomers (polymers with relatively few repeating units) and displaying protection against cognitive deterioration.

Or in simple terms, OA provides a protective barrier between health organ cells and harmful amyloid cells.

Oleuropein Aglycone Protection
Oleuropein Aglycone Protection

This confirms the polyphenol OA as a promising plant molecule useful against amyloid diseases.

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