Greek researchers and clinicians have released groundbreaking results of a study which suggests that consumption of high-phenolic, early harvest olive oil serves as a shield against Alzheimer’s disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment.
Scientists from the Department of Neurology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) and the Greek Association of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (GAADRD – Alzheimer Hellas) investigated the effect of early harvest extra virgin olive oil rich in phenols– and especially oleocanthal– as a natural remedy for amnesic type mild mental disorders.
Amnesic Mild Cognitive Impairment is usually a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease and is characterized by memory loss and inability to perform complex daily activities.
While there is no cure for Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, the global effort against mental disorders has focused on the early detection and management of the disease in the early stages.
According to the results of the 12-month study, a long-term intervention with a Mediterranean diet rich in extra virgin olive oil with a high-concentration of phenols in early-harvest extra virgin olive oil was associated with a significant improvement in cognitive function.
The results from the Thessaloniki study come after similar studies that brought together Temple University researchers with partners in Italy, that revealed that high phenolic olive oil consumption could delay the onset of cognitive impairment and dementia.
What is “high phenolic” olive oil?
All olive oils are not the same. According to European Union standards, in order for an olive oil to be classified as “high phenolic,” it must contain 250 mg/kg of organic compounds called polyphenols. Most traditional extra virgin olive oils are NOT high phenolic.
High phenolic olive oil comes from UNRIPE olives that are harvested early in the season, well before the fruit is ripe. Many producers bypass this process and wait for olives to ripen, since ripe olives produce twice the amount of juice than unripe ones.
But the more ripe the olive, the less the amount of naturally-occurring polyphenols.
The oil produced from unripe olives was called “omphakion” by the Ancient Greeks. Two ancient doctors, Hippocrates and Dioscourides, knew its value and used it to treat more than 60 ailments, according to surviving ancient texts.
Contemporary Greeks refer to this kind of oil, which has a sharp, peppery taste, as “agoureleo,” from the Greek word “agouro” or unripe. The peppery taste comes from the high concentration of polyphenols.
Because of the high cost associated with producing this type of oil, it rarely reaches the market.
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