`Researchers Explore Role of Olive Oil Phenols in Prevention of Neurodegenerative Diseases


Researchers Explore Role of Olive Oil Phenols in Prevention of Neurodegenerative Diseases

Jun. 15, 2015
Sukhsatej Batra

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Sev­eral stud­ies have reported that the Mediter­ranean diet slows cog­ni­tive decline and low­ers risk of neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases. While most of the research has been con­ducted in Mediter­ranean coun­tries, con­sump­tion of the Mediter­ranean diet by other pop­u­la­tion groups have pro­vided sim­i­lar results.

A study on 2,000 New York­ers who con­sumed the Mediter­ranean diet reported lower risk of Alzheimer’s dis­ease; and another study on 1,410 elderly French indi­vid­u­als found slower cog­ni­tive decline with higher adher­ence to the Mediter­ranean diet. Last year, a review arti­cle called the Mediter­ranean diet a model” diet for the pre­ven­tion of Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

While high intakes of cere­als, veg­eta­bles, legumes, fruits and olive oil that make up the typ­i­cal Mediter­ranean diet are rec­og­nized to be ben­e­fi­cial, a recent study found that long-term con­sump­tion of a Mediter­ranean diet sup­ple­mented with extra vir­gin olive oil or nuts had a pos­i­tive impact on cog­ni­tive func­tion in an older Span­ish pop­u­la­tion. Phe­no­lic com­pounds present in extra vir­gin olive oil and nuts may be the com­po­nents respon­si­ble for this pos­i­tive effect on cog­ni­tion, accord­ing to the inves­ti­ga­tors of the study.
See more: Olive Oil Health Ben­e­fits
In an arti­cle pub­lished in the March, 2015 issue of the jour­nal Mol­e­cules, researchers specif­i­cally reviewed lit­er­a­ture to explain how phe­nols present in extra vir­gin olive oil pre­vent neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases.

Accord­ing to the paper, olive oil con­tains about 230 chem­i­cal com­pounds of which carotenes and phe­no­lic com­pounds are the main antiox­i­dants. Of the phe­nols, hydrox­y­ty­rosol is the key phe­no­lic com­pound present mainly in olives and olive prod­ucts that are, in turn, the chief source of hydrox­y­ty­rosol in the Mediter­ranean diet.

Sci­en­tific evi­dence sug­gests that, as a potent antiox­i­dant, hydrox­y­ty­rosol is not only effec­tive in remov­ing reac­tive oxy­gen species pro­duced dur­ing oxida­tive stress, but it may also improve an organism’s defense against oxida­tive stress.


Oxida­tive stress, which pro­duces more reac­tive oxy­gen species than the body can detox­ify, may cause dam­age to the DNA and body pro­teins, and may be the ori­gin of neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as can­cer, ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis, and dia­betes.

Exten­sive research has iden­ti­fied hydrox­y­ty­rosol from olive oil to pos­sess antiox­i­dant, antimi­cro­bial, and antidi­a­betic abil­i­ties. Addi­tion­ally, hydrox­y­ty­rosol may pro­vide pro­tec­tion against heart dis­eases and play a role in pre­vent­ing or slow­ing the growth of tumors.

Research car­ried out in vitro and ex vivo to deter­mine hydroxytyrosol’s role as a neu­ro­pro­tec­tive agent shows that hydrox­y­ty­rosol from olive oil pro­tects cells from oxida­tive stress, improves resis­tance to oxida­tive stress, low­ers inci­dence of brain cell death, and reduces neu­ro­tox­i­c­ity and DNA dam­age.

Fur­ther­more, in some in vitro stud­ies, hydrox­y­ty­rosol has been asso­ci­ated with the nuclear fac­tor E2-related fac­tor 2 (Nrf2) and Antiox­i­dant Respon­sive Ele­ments (ARE) neu­ro­pro­tec­tive path­ways. The Nrf2 plays a pos­i­tive role in reg­u­lat­ing antiox­i­dant response ele­ments, which in turn reg­u­late gene expres­sion of sev­eral phase II detox­i­fy­ing enzymes.

Sup­ple­ment­ing the diet of mice with extra vir­gin olive oil and hydrox­y­ty­rosol enhanced cog­ni­tive func­tion, and reversed oxi­da­tion, learn­ing and mem­ory dam­age. In another study, EVOO and hydrox­ty­rosol acted as brain antiox­i­dants and pro­vided pro­tec­tion against oxida­tive dam­age in mice with Hunt­ing­ton dis­ease.

While in vitro and in vivo stud­ies on ani­mal mod­els have linked hydrox­y­ty­rosol to improved health and cog­ni­tion, there are very few stud­ies on the effect of hydrox­y­ty­rosol in humans. So far, only three clin­i­cal tri­als on the role of hydrox­y­ty­rosol on breast can­cer pre­ven­tion; the effect of hydrox­y­ty­rosol sup­ple­ments on mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis; and its influ­ence on phase II enzymes are under­way.

Although more research is needed to estab­lish the role of EVOO hydrox­y­ty­rosol in pre­vent­ing neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases, there is ample evi­dence that sug­gests that con­sum­ing a Mediter­ranean diet is ben­e­fi­cial for cog­ni­tive health.

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