An exciting new pilot study showed that drinking The Governor olive oil or using it uncooked, with food may improve brain health in individuals with mild cognitive impairment.
As the global population ages, instances of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and neurodegenerative disorders are of increasing concern. MCI, a stage between normal cognition and dementia, is characterized by reduced memory function and/or other cognitive processes. MCI affects 10-15% of the population over 65 years of age, and in those individuals with MCI, the annual rate of progression to dementia is 5-10%.
Because the blood brain barrier (BBB) has been shown to break down in the early stages of cognitive dysfunction, approachable interventions that help support BBB integrity are especially appealing. Enter: olive oil.
Studies have looked at olive oil and its phenolic compounds and found them to be protective against mitochondrial oxidative stress and neuroinflammation. For example, previous research has shown that extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) restored BBB function and reduced damage related to Alzheimer’s disease by reducing the production of Aβ (amyloid beta protein) and decreased total tau protein — two important biomarkers in tracking Alzheimer’s progression.
A pilot study by Kaddoumi et al. evaluated the effect of high phenolic EVOO (specifically, The Governor EVOO) in participants with MCI and compared it to the effect of refined olive oil (ROO). They did this by looking at BBB integrity and brain function through methods like biomarkers present in blood, MRI imaging, and using neuropsychological evaluations.
In the study, 25 subjects between the ages of 55 and 75 with mild cognitive impairment were randomly assigned to an EVOO or ROO group. The EVOO group was given 30 mL of The Governor EVOO daily for 6 months, which had 1200 mg/kg of total polyphenols. The ROO group received 30 mL of ROO without polyphenols daily for the duration of the study. They were instructed to either drink the oil or consume it uncooked with food. Fasting bloodwork was taken at baseline and after 6 months to measure changes in Aβ40, Aβ42, tau, p-tau181, and serum NFL. MRI imaging and scored neuropsychological tests were used to assess changes in brain function and cognition.
At the end of the six months, the EVOO group showed improvement in BBB integrity in the individual medial temporal lobe regions, which also showed effects indicating this could be specific to the EVOO. They also showed improvement in memory and cognition tests.
Because this was a small study with no control group, more research is needed to confirm these findings. Studies looking at whether there is any difference in effect when EVOO is consumed with food or by itself could also enhance understanding of how to optimize those benefits.
You can read the full study here.
This article was written by Jessica Cording MS, RD, CDN, INHC.
Jessica is a dietitian, health coach, podcaster, and author
Reference: Kaddiumi et al. (1 December 2022) Extra Virgin Olive Oil Reduced Blood Brain Barrier Permeability and Improved Clinical Dementia Rating Scores in Adult Subjects with Mild Cognitive Impairment. Nutrients 14, no. 23 (2022): 5102. Accessed February 15th 2023. https://bit.ly/3YYsJqJ