(Naturalhealth365) Over the past decade, the Mediterranean diet – with its focus on fish, extra virgin olive oil, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables – has become the darling of physicians and nutritionists for its ability to improve brain function and lower the risk of chronic diseases like, dementia and cancer.
Much of the diet’s disease-fighting powers are provided courtesy of the beneficial nutrient that lies at its very heart — olive oil. Now, new studies and clinical trials are highlighting the potential of extra virgin olive oil to improve bone health and neutralize the threat of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. (let’s take a closer look)
Extra virgin olive oil protects the brain from inflammation and oxidative stress
In research published last June in Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, researchers studied mice that had been genetically engineered to develop memory impairment typical of Alzheimer’s disease – along with the characteristic amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain.
The mice were divided into two groups. One group was given a normal diet, while the other was given a diet enriched with extra virgin olive oil. The team found that the olive oil group experienced decreases in harmful beta-amyloid and tau proteins, reductions in inflammation and oxidative stress, and improved connections between nerve cells. The control group received no such benefits.
In addition, the mice performed better on assessments of working and spatial memory, and had better cognitive abilities than the control group. And, finally, the team reported that olive oil was associated with more efficient autophagy – a process in which cells break down and dispose of waste products and toxins.
Extra virgin olive oil lowers risk of hip fractures by up to 51 percent
For elderly adults, a hip fracture can be a catastrophic, life-threatening event. In fact, hip fractures carry a higher mortality rate than any other fracture.
Encouragingly, a recent review of studies showed that olive oil consumption was associated with a substantial 21 percent decrease in the risk of these debilitating fractures.
A study of participants aged 55 to 80 years old showed that extra virgin olive oil was more effective than a pair of other diets – one featuring extra helpings of nuts, and one characterized as “low-fat” – in decreasing the risk of hip fracture.
The team noted that participants who consumed the highest amounts of olive oil cut their hip fracture in half – a very notable result. In other words, the study yielded clinical evidence of a safe, effective, low-cost and natural intervention for a serious medical problem – for researchers, the stuff of dreams.
(You can be certain that if a pharmaceutical drug were to achieve such results, the manufacturers would be proclaiming it from the rooftops, complete with media hoopla!)
In related studies, researchers discovered a direct correlation between high consumption of olive oil and higher “T-scores” – which indicate bone-mineral density and fracture probability. Significantly, study participants with the lowest T-scores not only ingested less olive oil, but consumed higher amounts of red meat.
Finally, additional studies showed that extra virgin olive oil outperformed sunflower oil in regards to maintaining bone density and strength in elderly rats. Sunflower oil, which contains potentially pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, was found to be associated with higher oxidative stress and inflammation.
The takeaway is obvious. For those looking to reduce risk of debilitating hip fractures, ramping up consumption of olive oil – in particular, extra virgin olive oil – makes good sense.
Alert: Do NOT be fooled by olive oil “imposters”
The troubling fact is: many olive oils – sold today – are not really pure olive oil. True extra virgin olive oil is produced by cold-pressing, and doesn’t use chemicals or high-heat manufacturing – processes which destroy valuable nutrients, polyphenols and fatty acids.
However, the market is currently awash with non-certified olive oils that are actually composed of inferior oils – such as pro-inflammatory, GMO-containing canola, corn and sunflowers oils – and further adulterated by the addition of artificial flavorings, chemicals and coloring agents.
This adulteration can be found in over 50 percent of the oils sold as “extra virgin” in Italy.
And, when it comes to olive oil sold in the United States, the picture is even grimmer. Disgracefully, over 80 percent of olive oil marketed as “extra virgin” in the United States doesn’t even meet legal standards.
Special notice: Listen carefully to Jonathan Landsman’s NatuarlHealth365 Podcast about the benefits of true extra-virgin olive oil – and discover how to avoid counterfeit products.
Oleocanthin in olive oil works like an NSAID drug to relieve pain – without side effects
Researchers once thought that olive oil’s benefits were due solely to its high content of oleic acid, a beneficial monounsaturated fatty acid. But, there is more to the story than that.
Recent research has shown that polyphenols such as oleuropein, tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol play an important therapeutic role as well. And oleocanthol – a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory molecule in olive oil with pain-killing and anti-inflammatory effects – has also gained the attention of researchers.
Recent studies have shown that oleocanthol removes proteins that are the primary component of the amyloid plaques often found in Alzheimer’s patients – sparking hopes that this polyphenol can play a role in preventing and treating neurodegenerative disease.
For maximum benefit, look for extra virgin olive oil that features a certification seal from the Olive Oil Council. It’s also a good idea to avoid products sold in clear glass bottles. Dark-colored glass bottles do a better job of preserving the oil’s valuable polyphenols.
Natural health experts typically advise ingesting between one and four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil a day. You can drizzle olive oil over vegetables before roasting, combine with balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard for a piquant salad dressing, or use it to create pesto, hummus, dips and spreads.
No matter how you use extra virgin olive oil, you can be assured that this extraordinary oil is working overtime to protect the health of your heart, bones and brain.
Sources for this article include:
Food & Nutrition
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