Extra-virgin olive oil has been linked to many health benefits, and now researchers believe it may even help ward off some of the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

In a new study, Temple University scientists found that the oil, which is a component of the popular Mediterranean diet, may protect memory and learning ability. The research team also identified the reasons behind why the oil is able to act as a protectant.

Read: Olive Oil And Brain Cancer Prevention: Oleic Acid Helps Molecule In Brain Tissue Suppress Tumors​

“We found olive oil reduces brain inflammation but most importantly activates a process known as autophagy,” study author Dr. Domenico Praticò said in a statement. Autophagy is a normal bodily process that deals with the destruction of cells.

Extra virgin olive oil Extra virgin olive oil, a key component in the Mediterranean diet, is made by crushing olives and extracting the juice. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The research, published in the journal Annals of Clinical Translational Neurology, was conducted on a specific type of mouse model that’s engineered to develop characteristics of Alzheimer’s, such as memory impairment.

The group of mice received one of two types of diet: chow enriched with extra-virgin olive oil or plain chow. The animals were given the olive oil at a young age, before they began experiencing any symptoms of the debilitating disease. But, they weren’t given just any olive oil. They received cold-pressed, first-extraction oil, which is carried in most grocery stores but usually pricey, according to Philly.com, a local source for Philadelphia news.

Findings revealed that the mice who ate the oil-enriched chow performed significantly better on memory and learning tests, at both age 9 months and 12 months. Additionally, the olive oil didn’t lead to any appearance changes, such as weight gain.

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In the future, Dr. Praticò and his colleagues plan to study how extra-virgin olive oil impacts the same mice once they develop key characteristics of the disease.

“Usually a patient sees a doctor for suspected symptoms of dementia, the disease is already present,” Dr. Praticò said. "We want to know whether olive oil added at a later time point in the diet can stop or reverse the disease."

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting millions of people worldwide. A recent report revealed the rates of the disease increased by 55 percent between 1999 and 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During the same time period, the number of deaths increased as well. There’s currently no cure, but there are treatments available to help improve a person’s quality of life.

It’s more common in older adults; however, younger people may also develop the disease. Common signs include memory problems, trouble handling money, repeating questions, taking longer to complete daily tasks, poor judgment, and mood or personality changes.

See also: Olive Oil Benefits: How High-Fat Extra Virgin Olive Oil Is Good For Your Immune System

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