Apart from being a healthy fat option in your diet, extra-virgin olive oil was found to help protect against memory loss and Alzheimer’s, a new study from Temple University showed. In the study, which was published Wednesday in the journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, researchers fed mice a diet enriched with olive oil and found that they had better memory and learning capabilities than mice who didn’t consume the oil. They looked at the rodents’ spatial memory, working memory, and learning abilities. Specifically, they found that extra virgin olive oil helped preserve neuron connections in the brain. 

Alzheimer’s disease affects thought, memory, and language functions and is the most prevalent form of dementia in the US. Olive oil was found to reduce inflammation in the brain and help activate the autophagy process.

“This is a very important discovery, since we suspect that a reduction in autophagy marks the beginning of Alzheimer's disease," said Domenico Praticò, the professor who led the study. 

The disease is thought to be triggered when a reduction in autophagy, a process that removes debris and toxins from the body, occurs. 

As a next step, researchers are considering if consuming EVOO later in the aging process can help stop or reverse the disease. Olive oil, a monounsaturated vegetable fat, also contains a fatty acid called oleic acid that may have positive effects on cancer genes. It also contains high levels of antioxidants, which prevent blood cholesterol from becoming oxidized, and help prevent heart disease.