The compound, known as oleocenthal, has been found to help clear the brain of abnormal beta-amyloid proteins that have been implicated in the development of the condition.
Writing in Chemical Neuroscience, researchers from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, USA, describe tracking the effects of oleocanthal in the brains and cultured brain cells of laboratory mice. In both instances, oleocanthal showed a consistent pattern of boosting production of two proteins and key enzymes believed to be critical in removing beta-amyloid from the brain.
"We provide in vitro and in vivo evidence for the potential of oleocanthal to enhance beta-amyloid clearance from the brain via up-regulation of P-glycoprotein (P-gp) and LDL lipoprotein receptor related protein-1 (LRP1), major beta-amyloid transport proteins, at the blood-brain barrier," wrote the US researchers - led by Amal Kaddoumi.
"Extra-virgin olive oil-derived oleocanthal associated with the consumption of Mediterranean diet has the potential to reduce the risk of AD or related neurodegenerative dementias," Kaddoumi and her team conclude.
Kaddoumi and his team noted that Alzheimer's disease (AD) affects about 30 million people worldwide, but the prevalence is lower in Mediterranean countries.
This has been attributed to the high concentration of healthful monounsaturated fats in olive oil — which is consumed in large amounts in the Mediterranean diet. However, newer research has also suggested that the actual protective agent might be oleocanthal.
The team sought evidence on whether oleocanthal helps decrease the accumulation of beta-amyloid (Aβ) in the brain - which is believed to play an important role in the development of AD.
Kaddoumi and her team said the results from both their in vitro and in vivo studies on lab mice demonstrated a 'similar' and 'consistent' pattern for oleocanthal in controlling Aβ levels.
"Our results demonstrated significant increase in beta-amyloid degradation as a result of the up-regulation of Aβ degrading enzymes following oleocanthal treatment," said the team.
"These findings provide experimental support that potential reduced risk of AD associated with extra-virgin olive oil could be mediated by enhancement of Aβ clearance from the brain."
Source: Chemical Neuroscience
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1021/cn400024q
"Olive-Oil-Derived Oleocanthal Enhances β-Amyloid Clearance as a Potential Neuroprotective Mechanism against Alzheimer’s Disease: In Vitro and in Vivo Studies"
Authors: Alaa H. Abuznait , Hisham Qosa , Belnaser A. Busnena , Khalid A. El Sayed , Amal Kaddoumi