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Why Can Olive Oil Help Prevent Alzheimer’s and Cancer

Why Can Olive Oil Help Prevent Alzheimer’s and Cancer

It is a staple of the Mediterranean diet and new beneficial properties for health are constantly being discovered. A study shows that it can improve the condition of neurons and reduce inflammation, which could help prevent Alzheimer’s and other diseases.

Why Can Olive Oil Help Prevent Alzheimer's and Cancer

Olive oil is a mainstay of the traditional Mediterranean diet, widely regarded as one of the healthiest in the world. The health benefits of olive oil are no secret, and most are attributable to antioxidant components found in small amounts, such as polyphenols. However, a new study highlights all the potential benefits related to its main component, oleic acid, which accounts for between 70 and 80 percent of its composition.

Scientists from the Faculties of Pharmacy and Medicine of the University of Seville, in collaboration with professionals from the Seville North and Altarage Health District and the Costa del Sol Hospital, say that oleic acid has properties that help prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.


According to the researchers, oleic acid, which can be obtained from foods such as olive oil and can also be synthesized by the body itself, plays a very important role in the human organism. It is the most abundant monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) in the human diet and the main MUFA in the human circulatory system. In the brain, it serves as an important part of membrane phospholipids and is abundant in neuronal myelin sheaths. Doctors have observed decreased levels of oleic acid in the brains of patients diagnosed with major depressive disorders and Alzheimer’s.

Previous studies had shown that oleic acid levels are related to memory and cognitive function. One of them is a study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, where researchers administered a diet rich in oleic acid to a group of young and older mice for six weeks and assessed their spatial memory capacity in an aquatic maze. The results showed that mice that consumed a diet rich in oleic acid had a significant improvement in their spatial memory capacity compared to mice that consumed a diet low in oleic acid.

The researchers also observed that the diet rich in oleic acid increased levels of a protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) in the hippocampus of mice, a brain region important for memory. While this study was conducted on mice and more research is needed to confirm its findings in humans, it suggests that oleic acid may have a positive effect on intellectual abilities.


Like all free fatty acids, the primary function of oleic acid is to serve as an energy source and as a component of cell membranes. One of its greatest characteristics is its antioxidant properties, since it can directly regulate both the synthesis and activity of antioxidant enzymes. Another benefit is its hypocholesterolemia effect, or its ability to inhibit the expression of proteins related to cholesterol transport and absorption. There are several ways oleic acid can help lower cholesterol:

  • Increases HDL cholesterol levels: Oleic acid increases levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol), which helps remove excess LDL cholesterol from the body.
  • Decreases LDL cholesterol production: It can decrease the production of LDL cholesterol in the liver, which reduces its accumulation in the body.
  • Reduces inflammation: Oleic acid has anti-inflammatory properties, which can reduce inflammation in blood vessels and prevent the accumulation of LDL cholesterol.
  • Improves arterial elasticity: It improves arterial elasticity, which can lower blood pressure and prevent the buildup of LDL cholesterol in the arteries.
  • Promotes nutrient absorption: Oleic acid helps the absorption of nutrients, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K, which are important for heart health.


That’s not all. Oleic acid is an anticancer molecule recognized thanks to its inhibitory effects on the overexpression of oncogenes and its effects on programmed cell death. In addition, researchers generally view oleic acid as an anti-inflammatory molecule, although this issue is still up for debate among scientists.

According to the scientific team, oleylethanolamide, a derivative of oleic acid, shows signs of possessing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Some have proposed it as a potent therapeutic agent to treat obesity, inflammation and pain, as it acts as a modulator of cannabinoid receptors in the body, specifically CB1 receptors. These receptors are found throughout the body, including the brain, and play a role in regulating various functions, such as memory, feeding, and mood.

Additional studies suggest that oleic acid influences epigenetic mechanisms (direct modifications of DNA and DNA-associated proteins) and immune system modulation through the regulation of cells linked to inflammation.


In addition to olive oil, there are other foods rich in oleic acid:

  • Avocados: They are rich in oleic acid and are an excellent source of healthy fats. They can be consumed raw in guacamole or salads.
  • Nuts: Walnuts, peanuts, almonds and other nuts are rich in oleic acid. They can be consumed alone as a snack or added to salads and other dishes. Choose unroasted and unsalted presentations when possible.


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