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.
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.