Fats, Oil, and Alzheimer’s
It seems that more articles regarding Alzheimer’s and various forms of dementia are published today than ever before. Why? According to the Bright Focus Foundation, over 6 million Americans of all ages have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and growing. By 2050, it is estimated that due to our declining nutrition and environmental toxins, over 14 million Americans will suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia. However, this can be mitigated in our lives by focusing on our food.
The first thing to understand is that diets high in sugar and carbohydrates are linked to a significantly increased risk of dementia. USA Today reported a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic and published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, which found that “Older people who load up their plates with carbohydrates have nearly four times the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment,” which is the precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.
The words “four times the risk” should capture your attention. Also cited among the studies; “those whose diets were highest in healthy fat (nuts and healthy oils for example) were 42% less likely to get cognitive impairment.”
Why Healthy Fats?
Don’t let the “fats” in healthy fats confuse you. Healthy fats are vitally important as your brain is mostly made of fat according to the National Library of Medicine. In fact, the human brain is nearly 60 percent fat, and fatty acids are among the most crucial molecules in determining your brain’s integrity and its ability to perform at a high level. Wait a minute…fat makes me smart? Not exactly, but the proper healthy fats do increase our brain's ability to function at an optimal level.
What Types of Fats Should You Include in Your Diet?
Here are five foods that you can implement into your diet today, helping your brain remain healthy and sharp well into old age:
- Avocados — are high in healthy monounsaturated fats that have been scientifically shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and improve insulin sensitivity. One of the best brain foods.
- Nuts — are rich in a variety of brain-supporting nutrients like vitamin E, omega-3 fats, copper, and manganese. These nutrients have been shown to help nurture and protect brain cells, prevent cognitive decline, and improve cognitive function.
- Eggs — help improve brain health in two important ways. Eggs deliver a mega-dose of choline, which is converted to acetylcholine by your body. Acetylcholine plays a central role in memory and cognition. Eggs like many foods should be consumed in moderation. One egg provides 62% of the daily cholesterol.
- Wild-caught fish — salmon is an excellent source of DHA. This fatty acid plays a crucial role in developing and protecting brain cells and has the potential to drastically improve memory and cognition if consumed on a regular basis.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) — research has shown that extra virgin olive oil is incredibly healthy brain food. However, not all Olive Oil is healthy. Let’s look more into it.
Is Olive Oil a Potent Brain Food?
The health benefits of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) are more understood today than ever. Very few other foods have the same potential as olive oil to keep you healthy. It’s especially healthy for the brain.
You may have heard or read that Mediterranean diets reduce your risk for such things as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even some types of cancer. The cornerstone of the Mediterranean Diet is olive oil.
In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, it was found that individuals who added 33 ounces of EVOO to their diets over a week’s period, experienced more than a 40% reduction in risk for dementia, as well as a more than 60% risk reduction in the development of breast cancer in women.
You want to strongly consider using extra virgin olive oil liberally and pouring it on as many foods as possible, such as salads, fish, chicken, eggs, bread, and most cooking.
What Olive Oils Are Best?
When looking for olive oil, ensure you purchase extra virgin. It’s the only grade of oil that retains its natural phenols (antioxidants) and other health-promoting compounds. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is also cold-pressed, meaning it’s not extracted using high heat or harsh chemicals, which can actually make the oil rancid and toxic. EVOO is minimally processed, which leaves in all the nutrients that Mother Nature intended. Other olive oil grades you may find, like “virgin,” “pure,” or “light,” have been chemically refined to mask any defects, which also destroy the healthy phenols.
Words of Caution
Despite the “best if used by” dates seen on the label at the grocery store, remember olives are a fruit. Like other fruits, olive oil tastes better and is more potent when fresh-squeezed. Olive oil remains at the height of flavor and nutritional content for about six months after its harvest. Unfortunately, harvest-fresh olive oil is almost impossible to find in your local grocery store.
Why. Most olive oil is shipped to the US on cargo ships. Then the oil sits in a warehouse and later on store shelves for many months before purchasing. According to the International Olive Council, producers can establish a “best if used by” date up to two years after bottling. Technically, olive oils in stores are within their “best if used by” date, but months beyond their window of peak flavor and nutritional potency. A study from the University of California, Davis, found that 69% of imported olive oils labeled “extra virgin” sold in stores were so substandard, that in no way could they qualify to be classified as “extra virgin olive oil,” the highest grade.
Follow the Rule of Six
When shopping for olive oil, forget the “best used by” date shown on the label. It doesn’t tell you when the olive oil was pressed. Look for EVOO that publishes on the label a pressing date (also known as the “harvest date”). Search for those with a date no more than six months before your date of purchase.
Unfortunately, most mass producers of olive oils sold in stores today do not put pressing dates on the label. Primarily because they don’t want you to know how old, stale, or rancid their oils may be. Chances are if you look at the olive oil in your pantry right now, the pressing date was intentionally omitted from the label. It’s not an oversight by the producer, it’s intentional.
Now What: Remember these three most important words whenever shopping for olive oil: fresher is better. This can often mean avoiding olive oil sold in grocery stores, where the oils sit on the shelf for months or even years, growing stale, musty, and rancid. Not in the best interest of your health.
Instead, take a look at sites online, directly from farms, where you can secure delicious olive oils within months and even weeks of harvest. If you try one bottle of fresh-pressed olive oil from a good online company, you’ll never go back to lesser store-bought oils…it’s that much of a difference. This is by no means an endorsement of one vendor over another, but to get you started, take a look at sites such as Pressed-Fresh Olive Oil Club, and Pasolivo.
Don’t Be Fooled
NBC News has reported that “fake olive oil is rampant.” The Wall Street Journal adds, “American grocery stores are awash in cheap, fake ‘extra virgins.’” In an exposé, 60 Minutes cautioned that we face a “sea of fakes” when shopping for olive oil in stores.
Since numerous studies have been published regarding the many health benefits of olive oil, the demand is increasing. But pure extra virgin olive oil is more expensive, which is driving many manufacturers to push fake olive oil as extra virgin, the highest grade. The New Yorker magazine reported that the profits in counterfeiting olive oil are “comparable to cocaine trafficking, with none of the risks.” Since America is the world’s largest consumer market, crooks have successfully targeted U.S. supermarkets as their favorite dumping ground. It’s believed that up to 70% of imported oils are fake.
In his New York Times best-selling book, Extra Virginity, olive oil expert Tom Mueller warns of contaminants and even cancer-causing agents in fake olive oils. He writes: “Italian investigators have found hydrocarbon residues, pesticides, and other contaminants in fake oils, and pomace oil, a common adulterant, sometimes contains mineral oil as well as PAHs, proven carcinogens that can also damage DNA and the immune system. Finally, there’s the 1981 case of toxic oil syndrome in Spain, when rapeseed oil adulterated with an industrial additive, sold as olive oil, killed eight hundred people and seriously injured thousands more.”
As stated at the beginning of this article, there are very few other foods that have the same potential as olive oil to keep you healthy, especially regarding the brain. But, like all foods, the source matters. Take the time to research where and when your oil was pressed. And be prepared to pay a little extra for the real thing. Cheaper is seldom better.