(Natural News) The Mediterranean diet is one of the best ways to eat for a healthier and longer life, thanks to its primary component, olive oil. People living in the Mediterranean region are some of the healthiest and long-lived people in the world. Olive oil provides many health benefits, but its benefits to brain health are often overlooked. Here are some of the ways olive oil helps keep the brain healthy and protects it from degeneration:
- Olive oil is rich in antioxidants – Olive oil is specifically rich in natural antioxidants known as polyphenols. In fact, it contains more than 30 phenolic compounds that are powerful antioxidants and free radical scavengers. Polyphenols can protect the body and brain from oxidation caused by free radicals and other toxins. The protection from oxidation is especially important because the brain uses a lot of oxygen, making it vulnerable to oxidation.
- Olive oil is packed with essential brain vitamins – Vitamins E and K are two vitamins that are important for brain health, and olive oil is rich in these. Vitamin E, particularly in the presence of vitamin C, helps maintain good memory, decelerates memory loss, and greatly lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. This vitamin can also reduce the damage brought by a stroke by redirecting blood supply after the event. On the other hand, vitamin K helps maintain the brain’s sharpness as you age and enhances brain processing speed. It can also boost your memory, particularly remembering words, which is a common problem as people age. This vitamin also plays a role in preventing Alzheimer’s.
- Olive oil fights against depression – Research found that replacing unhealthy vegetable oils, such as canola, with olive oil can cut the risk of depression by nearly 50 percent. Based on this finding, researchers conclude that the risk of depression increases as the intake of trans fat also increases.
- Olive oil raises brain-enhancing chemicals – Surprisingly, olive oil also increases the levels of two essential brain chemicals: brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and nerve growth factor (NGF). BDNF is a protein that encourages new brain cell formation and can ward off the negative effects of stress on the brain. Both chemicals promote the formation and restoration of brain cells. Olive oil also protects against depression as low levels of BDNF are linked to the condition.
- Olive oil helps prevent neurodegenerative diseases – Olive oil can protect the brain from cognitive decline. Research showed that consuming more monounsaturated fats enhances memory and other cognitive functions in older adults. In addition, other research revealed that adhering to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 40 percent. Olive oil, as a part of the MIND diet, has been shown to cut Alzheimer’s disease risk by 53 percent. Oleocanthal, an anti-inflammatory polyphenol found in olive oil, also plays a role in Alzheimer’s prevention as it can cross the blood-brain barrier to clear the brain of beta-amyloid proteins linked to Alzheimer’s.
In addition to its brain-boosting benefits, olive oil also boosts the immune system, increases bone density, protects the heart from diseases, and cuts the risk of diabetes. (Related: Olive oil is the key to longevity: Only one tablespoon a day can do wonders for your health.)
Choosing the right olive oil
As mentioned above, olive oil provides many health benefits. However, the type of olive oil matters. When buying olive oil, make sure that you choose only extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is extracted by a mechanical pressing, while other types use chemical solvents to extract the juice. This means that extra virgin olive oil is of higher quality and contains more polyphenols. Also, check the manufacturing and expiration dates of the product and avoid those that are over a year old. Moreover, only buy extra virgin olive oil in a dark-colored glass and not plastic to prevent light and keep bisphenol A (BPA) out of the oil.
Read more news stories and studies on supporting brain health by going to Brain.news.