We have heard about the benefits of olive oil for years—both from researchers and generations of people who know their foods.
But lately, some Internet gurus have been trying to cast doubts about olive oil, claiming it has too many calories and too much fat to really be healthy. (Try telling that to Vito Corleone.)
The truth is, for decades, hundreds of scientific studies from around the world have demonstrated the benefits of olive oil for heart health, preventing strokes, and even lowering the risk of some cancers. And olive oil is a key part of the Mediterranean diet, which can help you maintain a healthy weight and live longer.
In addition to its benefits for the body, new research shows olive oil has cognitive benefits as well. A new study from Italy shows that consuming extra-virgin olive oil can significantly improve memory, anxiety levels, and coordination.
And even more amazingly, the researchers found that olive oil’s polyphenols (antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds) appear to affect regulation of a gene linked to memory.
The result? The middle-aged mice used in the experiment started behaving like they were young pups.
That’s exciting news on its own, but it has even more significance on a public health level. I’ll explain how in a moment, but first let’s look more closely at this study.
How olive oil can tackle brain aging and more
Researchers gave the mice olive oil for six months. At the end of the study, the mice performed 74% better on motor coordination tests, and also had significant improvements in spatial memory and anxiety.
You may wonder why it’s important to improve your spatial memory. Well, when that type of memory is combined with better coordination, it boosts your mobility—which helps you stay independent longer. And, as I have mentioned, functional mobility is the single-best predictor of longevity.
So it’s no surprise that the aging mice that took olive oil started behaving like teenagers again.
There’s another important takeaway from this study as well. The researchers observed that most of the genetic changes in the mice were in the cerebral cortex—the area of the brain involved in attention, awareness, memory, perception, and related functions.
This observation provides support for the idea that dementia is essentially brain aging. And that like physical aging, brain aging can be avoided or delayed with the right diet (including olive oil) and supplementation.
Furthermore, these “anti-aging” genes in the brain have an impressive range of functions, including helping to regulate bone and nerve health and glucose metabolism. Which once again shows how important the brain is for healthy aging.
Another thing that makes this study important is that by demonstrating the molecular genetics involved in olive oil’s beneficial effects, it provides a “mechanism of action.” I’ve told you before how mainstream medicine needs to see these mechanisms of action before it will finally accept what centuries of folk medicine, and decades of human population studies, have shown us about the health benefits of foods and supplements—including olive oil.
In fact, these study results are so convincing, lead researcher Dr. Cristina Luceri stated that long-term treatment with olive oil could become part of a strategy for the prevention of brain aging and dementia.
So make sure your diet contains extra-virgin olive oil. A splash a day will do—either tossed over salad and vegetables, or as a healthy way to sauté meat or fish.
1“A nutrigenomics approach for the study of anti-aging interventions: olive oil phenols and the modulation of gene and microRNA expression profiles in mouse brain.” Eur J Nutr. 2015 Dec 22.