Olive oil superfood may protect the brain from age-related dementia

Adding extra virgin olive oil to your diet may be an effective way to reduce your risk of developing dementia in old age, according to researchers with Temple University's Lewis Katz School of Medicine. Extra virgin olive oil is often referred to as a 'superfood' due to its many known health benefits, including its potential protective effect for the brain.

This latest study out of Temple University involved mice. According to researchers, the mice were put on a diet that featured extra virgin olive oil starting at an age equivalent to 30 to 40-years-old in humans. After six months — at which point the mice were the equivalent of around 60 years old — the researchers found the mice had experienced an approximately 60-percent drop in tau deposits.

Tau is a protein linked to the formation of various types of dementia. The issue involves tau deposits, which can build up in the brain and cause a decline in cognitive functioning. The most common resulting dementia triggered by tau deposits is called frontotemporal dementia; it is most often seen in the elderly.

According to the study, mice fed the diet containing extra virgin olive oil showed better performance on learning and memory tests in comparison to mice that weren't fed the superfood. This was most likely the result of a healthier synapse function in the brain, according to the researchers.

Though the study involved mice, the protective effects may also apply to humans. The researchers plan to explore the potential effect of extra virgin olive oil on older mice that have already experienced tau damage, specifically whether the olive oil can help treat the health condition. People who plan to supplement with extra virgin oil olive should be careful to choose a product that has been certified as authentic.