How to keep cognitive function healthy over time and counter the onset of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's? Diet and lifestyle play an essential role. For example, the Mediterranean Diet has been proved to be neuroprotective. The study we are talking about today adds a further element as it states that oleic acid, which is rich in extra virgin olive oil, counteracts cognitive decay. The research results were published in the journal Nutrients by a Japanese team (Sakurai et al, Nutrients, 2021).
The researchers recruited 154 people, all over 60 years of age and in good health. The volunteers underwent tests to assess the health of cognitive function, in particular the Montreal Cognitive Assessment and the Wechsler Memory Scale-Delayed Recall, which are tests designed to establish the presence of mild dementia or Alzheimer's. Then, the volunteers were asked to fill out a questionnaire in order to evaluate their eating habits, in order to be able to estimate the daily intake of oleic acid through the diet. What emerged was that those who ate foods rich in unsaturated fatty acids every day scored higher on cognitive function tests, demonstrating a more active and healthier brain. Not only that, among the different unsaturated fatty acids, oleic acid was the one that showed the most powerful neuroprotective action. Oleic acid protects the functionality of blood vessels and is anti-inflammatory. This would explain its ability to preserve cognitive function. Moreover, previous studies have also observed that oleic acid intake is linked to a reduction in the formation of beta amyloid protein plaques, which are a characteristic of Alzheimer's disease.
Oleic acid is contained in extra virgin olive oil, but also in almonds and avocado.