We all know a drizzle of olive oil goes a long way when it comes to cooking, and it's also a beauty and skincare staple. The superfood is touted for its nutrients, like potent antioxidants and fatty acids, making it nature's gift for better health. Now, researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, suggest oleic acid — olive oil's main ingredient — may serve as a dietary preventive measure for brain cancer.

The study, published in the Journal of Molecular Biology, found oleic acid prevents a cell protein Musashi2 (MSI2), from blocking the production of microRNA-7 (miR-7) — a cell molecule found in brain tissue that prevents cancer-causing proteins from growing. Previous research shows miR-7 has been effective in inhibiting the growth of the fastest and most lethal brain tumors, known as glioblastomas. Moreover, oleuropein, a phenolic compound in olive oil, has been found to inhibit glioblastoma cell migration.

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Oleic acid is theorized to support the production of miR-7, therefore, reducing the growth of cancerous tumors.

"While we cannot yet say that olive oil in the diet helps prevent brain cancer, our findings do suggest that oleic acid can support the production of tumour-suppressing molecules in cells grown in the lab," said lead author of the study Dr. Gracjan Michlewski, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences, in a statement.

Researchers conducted tests on human cell extracts and living cells in the lab to make their discoveries.

The protective brain effects of olive oil go beyond brain cancer; a diet rich in olive oil can help keep mental acuity and memory intact. In a 2015 study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers compared the brain health of groups of older people (60s to 70s) in Spain assigned to a special diet. They ate a Mediterranean diet, in addition to either extra daily servings of extra-virgin olive oil, which is about four tablespoons, daily servings of nuts, or a lower-fat diet.

The findings revealed a low-fat diet worsened cognitive health, while the nut-and-oil-rich Mediterranean diet led to steady cognitive health during the study, and after four years. Although memories did not improve, there was no significant age-related cognitive decline. This suggests there can be benefits to making dietary changes in old age that can protect against age-related diseases.

Overall, these findings are encouraging, suggesting there is a link between olive oil and brain health. However, further research is needed to yield more conclusive results. The ingredients in this superfood protect the brain against inflammation, oxidative stress and ADDLS, which are proteins toxic to the brain that can lead to the onset of dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

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A bottle of olive oil may hold the key to better brain health in the future.

Source:Kumar S, Downie A, Velasco R et al. Oleic Acid Induces MiR-7 Processing through Remodeling of Pri-MiR-7/Protein Complex. Journal of Molecular Biology. 2017.

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