Olive Oil Consumption Could Lead to a 'Younger Brain' in the Elderly, Researchers Say

A well-known phenolic compound found in olive oil now shows an ability to reverse brain aging.

Feb. 24, 2020
By Paolo DeAndreis

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As peo­ple age, the more their brains could ben­e­fit from the action of an impor­tant com­po­nent in olive oil. 

New research has revealed the deeper effects of hydrox­y­ty­rosol (HTyr): Not only does it pro­tect brain func­tions from aging, but it may even restore the vital­ity of brain neu­rons, and mul­ti­ply them.

The antiox­i­dant activ­ity of hydrox­y­ty­rosol acti­vates a sort of clean­ing treat­ment for ner­vous cells.- Felice Tirone, researcher

Italian sci­en­tists at the National Research Center (CNR) inves­ti­gated how hydrox­y­ty­rosol works in those por­tions of the brain that gen­er­ate new neu­rons through­out life. They dis­cov­ered that HTyr impacts brain activ­i­ties far beyond its well-known neu­ro­pro­tec­tive effects.

Researchers at the CNR Biochemistry and Cellular biol­ogy Lab (CNR-Ibbc) were able to show how the admin­is­tra­tion of the com­pound in the elderly may reverse neu­ronal aging, com­bin­ing the pro­tec­tion of the active neu­rons and the gen­er­a­tion of new ones. 

Hydroxytyrosol oral con­sump­tion by young and older ani­mals within a month shows not only how the new neu­rons gen­er­ated by the brain in that time­frame are pro­tected, but it also hints how in older ani­mals it stim­u­lates the mul­ti­pli­ca­tion of stem cells,” said Felice Tirone, chief sci­en­tist and author of the study pub­lished in Faseb Journal. It is from those cells that new neu­rons are generated.” 

Tirone and his col­leagues explained that HTyr acti­vates neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis in the den­tate gyrus of an adult, where new neu­rons are gen­er­ated, by increas­ing sur­vival of new neu­rons and decreas­ing apop­to­sis.” The neu­rons mul­ti­pli­ca­tion effect is only found in aged brains.

We also found how the antiox­i­dant activ­ity of hydrox­y­ty­rosol acti­vates a sort of clean­ing treat­ment for ner­vous cells, in the sense that it washes away sev­eral byprod­ucts of brain aging like the lipo­fus­cin, which are debris found in neu­ron cells,” Tirone explained. 

The whole array of these effects hints at the pos­si­bil­ity of revers­ing some of the most known effects of brain aging.

Olive oil is at the core of the Mediterranean diet and, as often reported in these pages, its reg­u­lar con­sump­tion has been sci­en­tif­i­cally linked to health improve­ments in humans of any age at every latitude. 

The new research hints at a new series of prod­ucts that could help to relieve the reduc­tion of cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties in aging humans. 

CNR sci­en­tists under­lined in a press state­ment that hydrox­y­ty­rosol is not only found in olive oils peo­ple usu­ally con­sume but also in the byprod­ucts of olive oil production. 

That process impacts on the envi­ron­ment, but the bio­log­i­cal waste it pro­duces holds great quan­ti­ties of hydrox­y­ty­rosol. By upgrad­ing pro­ce­dures and means, by split­ting the good com­pounds from the other byprod­ucts, oil mills could obtain hydrox­y­ty­rosol while also reduc­ing the envi­ron­men­tal impact of their activ­i­ties,” said Tirone.

The CNR state­ment explained that sci­en­tists could ver­ify how the new neu­rons pro­duced in the brain of the aged indi­vid­u­als actu­ally enter the neu­ronal cir­cuits and fuel neu­ronal functionality. 

The daily intake of the com­pound in our study is sim­i­lar to the dose a human could ingest with an enriched diet or food inte­gra­tors. Still, the most effi­cient intake of hydrox­y­ty­rosol would hap­pen through olive oil con­sump­tion,” said Laura Micheli, one of the CNR-Ibbc researchers who signed the study.

Scientists also explained that future research will have to ver­ify the behav­ioral effects of the increased neu­ron pro­duc­tion and the extent of the HTyr treat­ment of neural aging.


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