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By now, most of us are aware that olive oil is pretty much the best thing to come out of Greece since John Stamos. It contains powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. It is the glue that holds Mediterranean cuisine together. It acts as a natural, multipurpose beauty tool. Now, Temple University researchers have unearthed another benefit of the all-purpose oil: It has been proven to protect against memory loss and even reduce notable signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

In a study published in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, researchers at Temple’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine determined that mice with an extra virgin olive oil-supplemented diet had better memories and learning abilities in comparison with those who didn’t consume the oil.

The researches believe this is the first time that anyone has established that EVOO can provide a “protective effect” in modulating certain proteins that, when defective, are associated with Alzheimer’s and memory impairments. “EVOO could be considered as a viable therapeutic opportunity for preventing or halting [Alzheimer’s disease].”

According to the study, neuron connections in the brains of mice on an EVOO diet were better-preserved than their counterparts. Additionally, researchers found that the oil activated the autophagy process, which removes debris and toxins that indicate the presence of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers suspect that reduction in autophagy signals the beginning stages of the degenerative disease.

This study could prove instrumental in the fight against Alzheimer’s, currently the most common form of dementia in the United States. The disease has no cure, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a projected rise to 14 million U.S. cases by 2050 from 5 million in 2013.

While these numbers are hardly reassuring, senior investigator Domenico Pratico told USA Today that the new “exciting” findings regarding EVOO set the stage for more beneficial research in the future.

“Thanks to the autophagy activation, the pathological effects in animals otherwise destined to develop Alzheimer’s disease were significantly reduced. We want to know whether olive oil added at a later time point in the diet can stop or reverse the disease,” says Pratico of the researcher’s future plans.

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