Many Oils, Foods Defend The Nervous System
Our best hope to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are found at the grocery store. While pharmaceuticals offer no hope at the moment, virgin olive oil does. According to new research, adding olive oil to your diet could lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer and more.
Although it isn’t the silver bullet, a recent study found that those who consumed olive oil daily had a 19 percent lower risk of many diseases. Since 1990, researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health studied 60,582 women and 31,801 men in the U.S. Those who consumed olive oil daily reduced their risk of death from neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, by 29 percent.
Researchers found that consuming olive oil also significantly reduced deaths from cancer and respiratory disease. Consuming up to a teaspoon daily generated a 12 percent reduction of death from all diseases. Earlier studies indicated that a diet rich in extra virgin olive oil prevents the accumulation of tau—a toxic protein associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other forms of prion disease. Even small amounts of olive oil appeared to be beneficial.
“If this finding is confirmed, it is of great public health importance,” said Dr. Susanna Larsson, an epidemiologist at Uppsala University in Sweden. “The study suggests that many vegetable oils may provide the same health benefits as olive oil.”
In Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, tau proteins accumulate inside neurons. These tangles and clumps of tau are toxic to the nervous system and deadly. In a healthy brain, normal levels of tau help stabilize the nervous system. In tau-related disease, the buildup of tangles inside neurons stops the nerve cells from receiving nutrients and signals from other neurons, which leads to their death.
“Our findings demonstrate that extra virgin olive oil directly improves synaptic activity, short‐term plasticity, and memory while decreasing tau neuropathology,” said Dr. Domenico Praticò, a professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology and the Center for Translational Medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. “These results strengthen the healthful benefits of extra virgin olive oil and further support the therapeutic potential of this natural product not only for Alzheimer’s disease but also for primary tauopathies.”
Extra virgin olive oil is rich in polyphenols—powerful antioxidant compounds that benefit the heart and the brain, while fighting cancer. Extra virgin olive oil contains more phenols than refined olive oil.
The extra virgin olive oil treatment improved autophagy—the brain cells’ ability to eliminate toxic waste. It also helped maintain the integrity of the synapses, which connect neurons.
Marta Guasch-Ferré, a research scientist in the nutrition department at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, said that a good target for olive oil consumption is 3-4 tablespoons daily. In addition to the nutritional benefits associated with olive oil, the practice helps reduce the intake of butter, mayonnaise and other animal fats.
“We need an overall dietary pattern that is full of plant-based food including fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, healthy fats such as olive oil or nuts, healthy moderate protein intake (eggs, fish, poultry),” Guasch-Ferré said. “Other lifestyle factors such as smoking and exercise play an important role in disease prevention.”
The Mediterranean diet is one of the most popular plant-based diets. It promotes plants and foods that are low on bad cholesterol, such as legumes, nuts, wheat, fruits and veggies. It recommends replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil. It also reduces salt and red meat. The DASH and Flexitarian diets are also popular. Part of the equation is cutting consumption of processed meat, processed foods, sugary drinks and desserts. Green leafy vegetables also help prevent dementia.
Eating more apples, bananas and oranges also can help prevent neurodegenerative disease.
Chang Y. Lee, Cornell professor and chair of food science and technology at the university’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y. exposed neurons to apple, banana and orange extracts. He found that the fruits’ antioxidants, specifically the phenolic phytochemicals, prevented oxidative stress-induced toxicity in the neurons.
In 2004, Lee reported that similar chemicals in apples could protect rat brain cells that were assaulted by oxidative stress in laboratory tests, and therefore, that apples might help prevent the type of damage that triggers Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Unpeeled apples contain the highest content of protective antioxidants, followed by bananas, then oranges.
“Our results suggest that fresh apples, banana and orange in our daily diet along with other fruits may protect neuron cells against oxidative stress-induced neurotoxicity and may play an important role in reducing the risk of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease,” Lee concluded.
Since first characterized by Dr. Lois Alzheimer in 1906, Alzheimer’s disease has claimed the lives of millions of people around the world. The problem continues to escalate. Due to misinformation and mismanagement, some countries have a higher prevalence of the disease than others. The truth is more elusive than a cure.
Neurodegenerative disease is the fastest-growing cause of death on the planet (excluding the coronavirus). Alzheimer’s disease alone is taking the lives of 50-100 million people around the world now. Millions will die of the disease this year, while millions more will be diagnosed and misdiagnosed. Millions of others will go undiagnosed. Contrary to popular belief, neurodegenerative disease is not a normal part of aging. Today, neurodegenerative disease is killing teenagers.
Dr. Stanley Prusiner, an American neuroscientist from the University of California at San Francisco, earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for discovering and characterizing prions and prion disease. President Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the importance of his research. Important reforms to policies to protect public health, however, have been elusive. Prusiner’s most recent study confirms that Alzheimer’s disease is a prion disease–also known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSEs).
“This shows that amyloid beta and tau are both prions, and that Alzheimer’s disease is a double-prion disorder in which these two rogue proteins together destroy the brain,” said Stanley Prusiner, MD, the study’s senior author and director of the UCSF Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, part of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences. “The fact that prion levels also appear linked to patient longevity should change how we think about the way forward for developing treatments for the disease. We need a sea change in Alzheimer’s disease research.”
Alzheimer’s disease is defined based on the collection of toxic proteins in the brain known as amyloid plaques and tau tangles. These proteins cause brain damage, which presents itself clinically as cognitive decline. New evidence that active Aß and tau prions could be driving the disease could lead to new therapies that focus on prions.
There are proven strategies to help avert neurodegenerative disease, including smart nutrition, exercise and prion aversion. There is not a cure for prion disease, but smart nutrition can ease the symptoms. Smart nutrition also can help you and your family avert neurodegenerative disease. Preview and order the eBook now to defend yourself and your family.
Gary Chandler is a prion expert. He is the CEO of Crossbow Communications, author of several books and producer of documentaries about health and environmental issues around the world. Chandler is connecting the dots to the global surge in neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and other forms of prion disease. The scientific name for prion disease is transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.