Scientists from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM), in Philadelphia (United States), have proven that extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), a superfood rich in cell-protective antioxidants and known for its multiple Health benefits, especially against aging and cardiovascular disease, preserve memory and protect the brain against Alzheimer’s disease.
In a new study in mice published online in the journal ‘Aging Cell’, LKSOM scientists show that another group of aging-related diseases can be added to that list: tauopathies, which are characterized by the gradual accumulation of a Abnormal form of a protein called tau in the brain This process leads to a decrease in mental function or dementia. The findings are the first to suggest that EVOO can defend itself against a specific type of mental impairment related to taupathy known as frontotemporal dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is itself a form of dementia. It mainly affects the hippocampus, the memory storage center in the brain. Frontotemporal dementia affects the areas of the brain near the forehead and ears. Symptoms usually arise between the ages of 40 and 65 and include changes in personality and behavior, difficulties with language and writing, and eventual impairment of memory and the ability to learn from previous experience.
Principal investigator, Domenico Praticò, Scott Richards, president of the North Star Foundation for Alzheimer’s Research, professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology and director of the Temple Alzheimer’s Center at LKSOM, describes the new work as providing another piece in the story about EVOO ability to avoid cognitive impairment and protect the junctions where neurons come together to exchange information, what is known as synapse.
“EVOO has been part of the human diet for a long time and has many health benefits, for reasons we still do not fully understand,” he admits. “The finding that EVOO can protect the brain against different forms of dementia it gives us the opportunity to learn more about the mechanisms through which it acts to support brain health. “
In previous work using a mouse model in which animals were destined to develop Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Praticò’s team showed that EVOO supplied in the diet protected young mice from memory and the deterioration of tailored learning They were getting older In particular, when researchers looked at the brain tissue of mice fed EVOO, they did not see typical characteristics of cognitive impairment, especially amyloid plaques, ‘sticky’ proteins that encompass the communication pathways between neurons in the brain. In contrast, the animals’ brains seemed normal.
The new study of the team shows that the same is true in the case of mice designed to develop tauopathy. In these mice, normal tau protein becomes defective and accumulates in the brain, forming harmful tau deposits, also called tangles. Tau deposits, similar to amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s disease, block neuronal communication and, therefore, impair thinking and memory, causing frontotemporal dementia.
Tau mice were given a diet supplemented with EVOO at an early age, comparable to approximately 30 or 40 years in humans. Six months later, when mice were equivalent to 60 years in humans, prone to tauopathy experienced a 60 percent reduction in harmful tau deposits, compared to littermates who were not fed EVOO. Animals in the EVOO diet also obtained better results in memory and learning tests than animals deprived of EVOO.
When Dr. Praticò and his colleagues examined the brain tissue of mice fed EVOO, they discovered that improved brain function was probably facilitated by a healthier synapse function, which in turn was associated with higher than normal levels of a protein known as complexin-1. It is known that complexin-1 plays a fundamental role in maintaining healthy synapses.
The research team now plans to explore what happens when EVOO is fed to older animals that have begun to develop tau deposits and signs of cognitive impairment, which more closely reflects the clinical scenario in humans. “We are particularly interested in knowing if EVOO can reverse the day