Alzheimer’s and EVOO - Blog # 34

Alzheimer’s and EVOO - Blog # 34

Happy Friday everyone! Welcome back to another Friday blog. Today I wanted to highlight a rapidly growing problem, Alzheimer’s Disease. Let’s look at the latest research into this devastating condition and what we can do to prevent or even reverse some of the damage to the brain. 

The annual report from the Alzheimer’s Associationdeaths from heart disease decreased 7.5% in 2019-2020 while Alzheimer’s Disease increased 145%!! What?!!!! In 2021, more than 6 million are living with AD and about 2/3 are women. It is projected to increase to 13 million by 2050. Holy moly. 


According to the journal Neurobiology of Disease,“Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a chronic neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the pathological accumulation of amyloid beta (Aβ) peptides and neurofibrillary tangles containing hyperphosphorylated neuronal tau protein. AD pathology is also characterized by chronic brain inflammation, which promotes disease pathogenesis.” Okay, so let’s break this down so we understand what is happening. Damaging proteins are crossing the blood brain barrier (BBB) and accumulating in the brain interrupting communications and causing inflammation. 

To further speed up the catastrophic events, “Aβ deposition in the vasculature leads to pro-inflammatory and cytotoxic events that contribute to the greater BBB permeability in the AD brain.” So, when these harmful proteins are deposited in the blood vessels, inflammation and cell death events go up. Increasing permeability or “holes” in the membrane, allows even more harmful substances to cross the BBB, such as bacteria, viruses,  damage all sorts of things can do. 

“The BBB is a highly specialized endothelial cell membrane lining cerebral microvessels, which regulates the entry of plasma components, red blood cells and leukocytes into the CNS, and ensures the export of potentially neurotoxic molecules from the brain to the blood.” The job of the BBB is to not let anything into the brain that shouldn’t be there such as, viruses, bacteria, toxins, more damaging proteins, thus protecting the most important organ system in our body. 

In the 2021 May issue of Scientific American, researchers have linked BBB damage from aging, injury or acute stress to AD and related dementias. “In two papers published in 2019 in Science Translational Medicine, we demonstrated that as people get older, this shield loses integrity and starts leaking, allowing blood proteins into the brain that normally do not get there. These proteins in turn activate a cascade of events among brain cells that can produce some of the most notable and widely seen changes associated with aging and illness: inflammation, abnormal neuron activity and cognitive impairment.” These researchers have been able to demonstrate in mice BBB damage from pyridostigmine, a drug given to soldiers to protect them from chemical weapons, and feel is responsible for ‘Gulf War Syndrome’. 

Okay, so the BBB is is KEY in preventing and treating AD. The BBB is a cell membrane, and we know that Oleic Acid (OA) is actively involved in repair and protection of cell membranes. Your body’s ability to synthesize lipids requires the right dietary raw materials that are critical for the formation of membrane bilayers in multiple organ systems. “The incorporation of oleic acid into the phospholipids of the cell membrane can regulate the membrane structure and, in turn, alter the biophysical properties of the membrane.” Here is an illustration of a membrane bilayer taken from Membrane Composition and Dynamics.

Interestingly, the molecular shape of OA helps to maintain hydration and increase fluidity of cell membranes. So, eat some good fatty fish with EVOO!!!

We also know from multiple studies that Oleocanthal is a powerful anti inflammatory phenol in EVOO. Studies show that the BBB is readily crossed by unsaturated fatty acids (UFA), while saturated fatty acid (SFA) transport is via proteins. With AD, blood vessels get clogged up with amyloid-B and tau tangles that are a consequence of inflammation. Oleocanthal reduces inflammation, activates removal of these harmful proteins from the brain, thus keeping our brains functioning optimally.

A team at Temple University published a study in 2017 in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology that further explains how EVOO stimulates autophagy. “Autophagy is the process by which cells break down and clear out intracellular debris and toxins, such as amyloid plaques and tau tangles.” They reported that the brain cells from AD mice models enriched with EVOO “had higher levels of autophagy and reduced levels of amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau.” Phosphorylated tau is responsible for neurofibrillary tangles, responsible for Alzheimer's memory symptoms.

"One thing that stood out immediately was synaptic integrity," Dr. Praticò said. The integrity of the connections between neurons, known as synapses, were preserved in animals on the extra-virgin olive oil diet. In addition, compared to mice on a regular diet, brain cells from animals in the olive oil group showed a dramatic increase in nerve cell autophagy activation, which was ultimately responsible for the reduction in levels of amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau.”

A recent 2019 article in Chemical Neuroscience reports “findings demonstrated that OC-rich EVOO restored the BBB function (in AD mice model) and reduced AD-associated pathology by reducing neuroinflammation.” They plan to continue studying to find if it can reverse damage in an advanced stage of AD.

Now, this all happens primarily when we sleep. This portion of the brain lymphatic system is being termed “glymphatic system” (due to glial cells). “The glymphatic system is like a ‘dishwasher’ for the brain. When we sleep, the brain cells actually become smaller, forcing more fluid out through the glymphatic vessels.” WOW!! This is really enlightening. Now that we understand what is happening in AD, we have a way to battle it! Oleocanthal is found specifically in EVOO. You can’t get this anywhere else. With Oleic Acid’s therapeutic effect on plasma membranes and Oleocanthal’s anti-inflammatory effects, EVOO goes a long way to protect and prevent AD and related dementias. A recent abstract reports that “diet supplementation with OC-rich EVOO could provide beneficial effect to slow or halt the progression of AD.” The higher the polyphenols, the better and more protection!!!

So, until next time my friends, drink, drizzle, digest high polyphenol EVOO, eat fatty fish rich in Omega 3s, eat foods high in lutein, drink lots of water, get plenty of sleep, get a good pre/probiotic, exercise your body - weight-bearing exercise - and mind and turn off the light!!  #EVOO 


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