Olive and let live

If we can have a society obsessed by cooking shows, and if we can have arising from those shows “celebrity chefs”, and if we can have a list of “superfoods”, then surely we are only a short step from “celebrity foods”. If that is the case, leading the celebrity food pack will be two oily customers; fish and olive. Today we engage in celebrity gossip about olive oil because a new study has suggested that a previously unheralded ingredient may be behind its actions in Alzheimer’s Disease.

For a long while the focus of attention when it comes to the olive oil story has been that it contains monounsaturated fat. This is a good type of fat that has been shown to can improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, stabilise heart rhythms, and play a number of other beneficial roles in your body. Just in recent times though, there has been a new kid on the block; an ingredient from olive oil called oleocanthal.

In 1995 an article in the journal Nature caused interest in oleocanthal when researchers reported that this substance, derived from newly pressed extra-virgin olive oil, has some characteristics in common with the anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen. They noted that both induce very similar stinging sensations in the throat and thereafter determined that the two substances have structural and pharmacological similarities. They found that oleocanthal, like ibuprofen, is an inhibitor of the COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes in a dose-dependent manner. The researchers theorised that oleocanthal might , through consistent long-term consumption of extra-virgin olive oil, some ibuprofen-like relief from inflammation. Since inflammation is thought to play a role in the depoisition of the plaques that contribute to Alzheimer’s then olive oil should help reduce Alzheimer’s risk. In fact the prevalence of Alzheimer’s is lower in Mediterranean countries where olive oil is popular. In a new expose though, a study has found exactly how oleocanthal may protect the ageing brain.

Beta-amyloid is the protein that clumps in the brain and is believed to contribute to Alzheimer’s. The new research has found that oleocanthal increases production of two enzymes that are believed to remove beta-amyloid from the brain.

In celebrity food gossip terminology, it doesn’t mean that the relationship between olive oil and monounsaturated fats is off, but oleocanthal is certainly showing some interest.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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