Olive Oil vs. Alzheimer’s: AU seeking participants to research benefits

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AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. (WRBL) – Auburn University scientists are researching how Extra-Virgin Olive Oil may delay or even prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Researchers are encouraged by their studies in mice and are now seeking human participants in a new study.

It looks like liquid gold and Extra-Virgin Olive oil could be just that as a potential breakthrough in delaying or preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“Based on our previous studies of 12-years we found extra-virgin olive oil was able to reduce the pathology of Alzheimer’s Disease and improve memory in mice,” shared Dr. Amal Kaddoumi, a professor in HSOP’s Department of Drug Discovery and Development.

Researchers at Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy are recruiting subjects for a research study on a potential treatment for those with cognitive impairment conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. The therapy uses a compound found naturally in extra-virgin olive oil that could improve those types of conditions.

“I am very encouraged. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil is a food. It is available for anyone. It’s not a drug; some people are hesitant about a drug investigation. But this is available on all supermarket shelves,” said Dr. Kaddoumi.

Research centers around oleocanthal, a molecule that appears naturally in extra-virgin olive oil and is a novel preventative treatment for these diseases.

“Based on our studies, extra-virgin olive oil could improve memory and decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Kaddoumi. “According to our findings, it enhances the function of the blood-brain barrier, which has a vital role in protecting the brain. Also, extra-virgin olive oil reduces the accumulation of toxic amyloid plaques and reduce neuroinflammation.”

Kaddoumi and her team have been approved by Auburn’s Institutional Review Board to conduct a study on human subjects to test the effectiveness of extra-virgin olive oil in improving certain conditions.

“We are looking for subjects who have mild cognitive impairment, such as those who have troubles in their memory like having trouble finding words or remembering facts or events. We provide everything, we provide them the olive oil, and we will divide it into small bottles, and we ask them to consume one bottle a day,” said Kaddoumi.

Once selected, participants will consume extra-virgin olive oil daily for six months. Memory tests will be conducted at the beginning and end of the study, along with MRI scans and other diagnostics. Participants will be paid $100 at the beginning of the study and $150 at the end.

If you’re interested in participating in the study you can email Dr. Kaddoumi at: kaddoumi@auburn.edu

Kaddoumi, whose specialty areas include neuropharmacology and brain research, has received a R21 grant from the National Institutes of Health of more than $400,000 to study oleocanthal and the therapeutic possibilities it has related to Alzheimer’s and dementia. Additionally, she has received $150,000 as part of the Auburn Presidential Awards for Interdisciplinary Research for a pilot clinical study and is collaborating with multiple national and international groups on additional therapeutic benefits of oleocanthal that are currently ongoing to evaluate its anti-inflammatory effect in Alzheimer’s. The project was also the subject of a Tiger Giving Day campaign that raised more than $17,000.

“We are optimistic about the impact of oleocanthal on reducing the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, a stage that precedes Alzheimer’s, and on reducing the progression from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s. As an outcome of this project, we hope the findings will support advancing the therapeutic development of oleocanthal in clinical trials, said Kaddoumi.

For those interested in incorporating extra-virgin olive oil into their diet for its potential benefits, Kaddoumi suggests using unrefined types with a pungent taste. It is also recommended to consume it raw, as a salad dressing or with bread. 25 milliliters or two tablespoons are recommended daily.

Alzheimer’s affects more than 30 million people globally, including more than five million people in the United States that are living with the disease. That number is expected to increase to 16 million in 2050.

With the disease affecting such a large part of the population, Kaddoumi believes it is essential to identify ways people can reduce the risk of developing the disease. One area she has identified as a factor is a diet with clinical studies suggesting that adherence to the Mediterranean diet improves cognitive function and slows the progression of Alzheimer’s. One significant component of a Mediterranean diet is extra-virgin olive oil.

Dr. Kaddoumi is hopeful a pantry staple may prevent so much suffering associated with cruel diseases that impair a person’s cognitive function.

“According to our findings with extra-virgin olive oil, this observed positive effect could be attributed to the oleocanthal compound, which suggests the consumption of extra-virgin olive oil could be beneficial to protect memory and learning ability,” said Kaddoumi. “As a therapeutic approach, we are working on the development of oleocanthal as a therapeutic molecule to prevent, slow, and/or hold the progression of Alzheimer’s.”

Using these therapeutics to strengthen the blood-brain barrier can be vital in helping those with neurodegenerative disorders. The team hopes its work leads to clinical trials and a new therapy for treating Alzheimer’s diseases and related disorders including cerebral amyloid angiopathy, and vascular dementia.

About the Harrison School of Pharmacy:

Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy is ranked among the top 20 percent of all pharmacy schools in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. Fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), the School offers doctoral degrees in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and pharmaceutical sciences (Ph.D.) while also offering a master’s in pharmaceutical sciences. For more information about the School, please call 334.844.8348 or visit http://pharmacy.auburn.edu.

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