More than 5.8 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common neurodegenerative disease in elderly patients . As aberrant proteins aggregate in the brain, overtime the patient suffers from decreased memory and thinking, and an inability to perform basic tasks. Despite the obvious need for effective treatments, the current drugs ease patient’s symptoms without tackling the root cause of those symptoms, allowing continued disease progression.
Can a nutritional intervention with the right olive oil offer new hope?
How do Alzheimer's Drugs work?Many of the drugs prescribed to alleviate Alzheimer’s symptoms work by increasing acetylcholine levels in the brain to improve brain function. While these drugs can be effective in early stages of the disease, late stage Alzheimer’s patients often lose sensitivity to this drug.
Can Olive Oil Make Alzheimer’s Drugs Work Better?
A recent study in the The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry tested the use of olive oil alongside donepezil (Aricept®) – an Alzheimer’s drug used to treat symptoms in all stages of Alzheimer’s. The scientists wanted to find out if olive oil could make donepezil work more effectively. 
The study focused on the impact of olive oil high in oleocanthal —a medically active compound found in premium extra virgin olive oils that is known for its health benefits. The research group had previously demonstrated that this particular olive oil - The Governor - as well as pure oleocanthal, improved cognitive function and behavior in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s.
Mice were given the oleocanthal-rich Governor extra virgin olive oil prior to the onset of Alzheimer’s, and donepezil was given to the mice upon symptom presentation. The mice that consumed The Governor EVOO had less protein aggregates in their brain compared to mice given donepezil alone. The Governor EVOO stimulated several protein aggregate clearing mechanisms, enhancing the effects of donepezil to reduce the physical changes in the brain due to Alzheimer’s disease.
Can Olive Oil Help Alzheimer’s Patients?
The results of this study suggest that EVOOs high in oleocanthal such as The Governor can make Alzheimer’s drugs work more effectively without the side effects of increasing the drug dose.
Their results also confirm previous ties between long-term EVOO consumption through a Mediterranean diet, and decreased onset/improved prognosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
 Batarseh, Y. S., & Kaddoumi, A. (2018). Oleocanthal-rich extra-virgin olive oil enhances donepezil effect by reducing amyloid-β load and related toxicity in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry,55, 113-123. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2017.12.006