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Olive Oil Compound May Help Prevent and Treat Alzheimer's

Researchers with the Department of Neurobiology and Physiology at Northwestern University recently found that a naturally occurring compound in olive oil called oleocanthal may help stop or reverse one of the disruptive processes associated with Alzheimer's.

During the first stage of Alzheimer's, toxic proteins called ADDLs bind to synapses in the brain. This process disrupts nerve cell function and causes the debilitating effects of Alzheimer's.

For the study, researchers performed a number of lab tests and they were able to determine that oleocanthal can change the structure of ADDL proteins by making them bigger.

These bigger proteins cannot bind to the synapses in the brain as easily. This means that oleocanthol may protect the brain from the tremendous damage caused by ADDLs.

Additionally, after being exposed to olecanthol, the ADDLs became easier targets for antibodies. This may lead to an opportunity to develop more immunotherapy treatments, which use antibodies to bind to and attack ADDLs.

The study was published in the October 2009 issue of the journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology.

These findings show promise for use of this naturally occurring olive oil compound in both the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's disease.

The researchers noted that these are some very promising results but that further studies with humans are needed to establish that olecanthol can be successfully used in clinical interventions.

Continued research into the prevention of Alzheimer's is gaining importance due to the aging populations and soaring rates of Alzheimer's. The direct and indirect costs of the disease are staggering, with the US alone spending over 100 billion dollars annually.

More and more evidence is showing that one of the best ways to avoid Alzheimer's is by keeping active both mentally and physically. Things like reading, doing puzzles, attending social events and performing low to moderate intensity exercises 2-3 times a week may help with Alzheimer's prevention.

A growing body of evidence is also showing that eating more foods high in omega-3 essential fatty acids may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's as well.

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