Olive oil has been widely acclaimed as one of the healthier fats to use in cooking and include in a balanced diet. It’s a large part of the Mediterranean Diet, which also includes, nuts, beans, fresh fish and certain vegetables. Olive oil contains fatty acids, which have been shown to have heart health benefits, be good for the brain and are necessary part of any diet. While there is a great deal of research about this way of eating and how it can improve health, the exact connection between dietary intake and brain benefits hasn’t yet been established. In a review of 135 different studies and published works on fatty acids in the diet, 18 studies stood out for their superior methods and for the fact that they showed a direct correlation between including olive oil and other fatty acids in daily food intake and improved memory and cognition.
But what is it about one of the main components of the Med Diet, olive oil, that makes it so important to researchers and so beneficial in study after study? The answer seems to be oleic acid. This compound, which is the primary ingredient in olive oil, has been shown in recent research from the University of Edinburgh, to play a role in stimulating miR-7, within cells. miR-7 has been shown in many molecular and cancer research studies to help with tumor suppression. From glioblastoma to highly invasive breast cancer, the introduction of mature miR-7 has shown good results in shutting down tumor growth.
It starts with oleic acid in olive oil. Enough of this nutrient results in production of cell molecules with miR-7, which is a major player in the brain and in the development of certain brain cancers. Not only does the oleic acid help in producing the molecules of miR-7, but it also seems to go up against a cell protein known as MSI2. MSI2 is problematic in brain cancers because it effectively shuts down the production of miR-7.
The work was done on human cell extracts and living cells in the lab and the results are promising for developing preventative therapies that could either keep brain cancers from forming, or shut down the growth of those that do.
So should we all start guzzling olive oil? Perhaps not yet. The results, while hopeful, did not address dietary intake specifically. There’s no way to tell, just from this research, if increasing the amount of olive oil in the diet can set in motion the molecular activity shown in the lab. Dr Gracjan Michlewski, lead author of the study, and a professor at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Edinburgh stated, “While we cannot yet say that olive oil in the diet helps prevent brain cancer, our findings do suggest that oleic acid can support the production of tumour-suppressing molecules in cells grown in the lab. Further studies could help determine the role that olive oil might have in brain health.” Check out the video included here to learn more.