By Donna Mischke, Director of Family Services at Concierge Care Advisors
I love to mix apple cider vinegar and extra virgin olive oil for salad dressing. I also love to drizzle some vinegar and olive oil over a sub sandwich, but I had no idea that extra virgin olive oil was so healthy. I recently came across an article listing so many benefits for this oil rich in healthy monounsaturated fat. I was amazed that not only does quality made extra virgin olive oil help reduce inflammation, it also has been shown to help protect against cognitive decline by reducing the formation of protein build up in the brain. According to a study done at Temple University, olive oil can reduce brain inflammation and activate a process called autophagy, where cells break down and clear out debris and toxins. After further research on this subject, I found a PubMed study done on mice that showed the potent antioxidants Polyphenols found in extra virgin olive oil were shown to reverse age and disease related learning and memory deficits.
Upon further research, I found that many nutritionists and scientist agreed that a good quality extra virgin olive oil can boost the working memory, improve the spatial memory, and enhance learning abilities. Scientists also found that this oil can help delay the onset of dementia and are currently working on further research to determine if olive oil can help those who may already have memory loss.
To get the full benefits of this oil, make sure not to buy fake olive oils. Extra virgin olive oil should only be purchased in a dark glass bottle. Olive oil is very light sensitive. A quality brand will be more expensive because the oil has been extracted from olives without the use of heat or chemicals. The highest quality will come from the first pressing. Look for labels that say certified pure and organic. One way to test the oil mentioned to put the extra virgin olive oil in the fridge overnight. If it goes thick and opaque with whiteish crystals appearing on the glass, this is a good indicator that you’ve probably got a good one. Another way to test is to taste the oil. The more potent an oil’s flavor, the more powerful its protective effects. If you feel a slight burn in the back of your throat when tasting, it means the oil has high levels of oleocanthal which is the polyphenol that’s been shown to break up the Alzheimer’s plaque buildup.
Cooking with olive oil may damage its benefits. A good quality oil will have a low to medium smoking point only. It can be used for light sautéing but is best drizzled over foods already cooked or added to foods without heating the oil. To get the full benefits, consume 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil a day. Extra virgin olive oil has also been shown to do much more than help with memory loss. It may help prevent strokes, protect against heart disease, help with weight loss, treat rheumatoid arthritis, reduce type 2 diabetes and fight cancer cells.
Extra virgin olive oil could just be our kitchen’s secret to a longer and healthier life. Researchers have shown that the benefits to a good quality extra virgin olive oil can flush out the proteins that gum up on the communication channels between the brain. This can not only prevent or delay but may even reverse Alzheimer’s and other memory loss related diseases. Many foods such as fatty fish, blueberries and turmeric are known to benefit memory loss, but extra virgin olive oil seems to be at the top of the list. I know I will continue to enjoy drizzling olive oil over my foods and adding to my salads daily, maybe even more now. Who knows, it may just improve my overall health.