Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Olive Oil and Your Brain, and a New View on Produce

Olive oil is known to have protective effects on bone, heart disease and breast cancer risk. Its use in the Mediterranean diet has been associated with a 30% lower risk of death from heart attacks and stroke in a recent Spanish study. Here’s more!

In 2009, Researchers at Columbia University in New York found that elderly people who were physically active and ate a Mediterranean diet, had a 32-40% lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) compared with those who did not. The Mediterranean diet was defined as including a high consumption of vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains and fish, and a lower use of red meat. About 50 milliliters of olive oil (roughly 1/5th cup per day) is consumed.

Research into the lower amounts of dementia on this diet has found a compound in extra virgin olive oil called oleocanthal. Amal Kaddoumi and her colleagues at the University of Louisiana looked at whether oleocanthal helped to decrease the accumulation of beta-amyloid in the brain, as this substance is believed to be the culprit in AD. They applied different concentrations of oleocanthal to mouse brain cell cultures, and also gave oleocanthal to live mice. In both trials, levels of the two proteins that transport beta-amyloid out of the brain as well as enzymes that degrade beta-amyloid increased significantly. The researchers then introduced beta-amyloid into live mice brains. Compared with control groups, the mice given oleocanthal showed significantly enhanced clearance and degradation of the beta-amyloid peptides.

This study has exciting implications for the prevention of AD. While pharmacologists are figuring out how to make a medicine from oleocanthal, you can use extra-virgin olive oil as your main source of fat. Investigate how to make an oliveoil/herb spread for your bread. It is important to note that being physically active and eating a lot of fresh produce is also important to keep your brain healthy.

Breeding the Nutrition out of Food: Jo Robinson, an investigative reporter, has just published a book called Eating on the Wild Side. She notes that over the last 10,000 years since we stopped foraging for wild plants and instituted farming and gardening, we have selected the least bitter plants to grow in our gardens. While this has made some foods tastier, it has decreased their phytonutrients. Robinson is not talking about genetic engineering, but conventional selective plant breeding which has gone on for millennia but has recently accelerated. She notes that purple Peruvian potatoes have vastly more nutrients than the white potato, and blue corn is greatly superior to white corn, even though white corn is sweeter and more popular. I will write more about her findings when I get her book. In the meantime, she suggests arugula, which is very similar to its wild ancestor, and scallions, which resemble wild onions. She suggests using plentiful amounts of fresh herbs in cooking. Rebecca Katz, author of The Cancer Fighting Kitchen and The Longevity Kitchen, also promotes the use of herbs as ingredients in many dishes, including salads. Don’t overlook those amazing deep purple Japanese sweet potatoes if you can find them. Go for color, and spiciness; you will be on the right track.

Sadja Greenwood, MD, MPH -->

1 comment:

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