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Extra virgin olive oil boosts brain function and halts the effects of aging on the brain, a 2019 study in mice found. Mice that ate an olive oil-rich diet had fewer abnormal deposits of tau – a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease – in their brains and performed better on memory tests than mice that didn’t eat olive oil.

Researchers fed mice that are predisposed to developing abnormal tau deposits in their brains an olive oil-enriched diet or their regular chow from young adulthood to older adulthood. They subjected the mice to various cognitive tests and then they examined the animals' brains for the presence of abnormal tau deposits.

They found that the mice that ate the olive oil-rich diet had approximately 60 percent fewer abnormal tau deposits than mice that ate regular chow. The olive oil-eating mice also demonstrated enhanced hippocampal synaptic activity, short-term plasticity, and memory.

Olive oil is rich in bioactive compounds, including polyphenols, carotenoids, oleic acid, and others. Olive oil is a fundamental component of the Mediterranean diet, which is associated with a wide range of health benefits, including reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

This study in mice suggests that olive oil reduces the risk of abnormal changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids may have beneficial effects on brain health, too. Learn more in our omega-3 overview article.

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