Researchers looking to extra-virgin olive oil for possible recipe against Alzheimer's

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Extra-virgin olive oil (or E.V.O.O. to fans of cooking show host Rachael Ray) is heart-healthy cooking oil that goes great with Mediterranean food. Now, researchers say it might also help prevent Alzheimer's disease.

Specifically, the compound oleocanthal in extra-virgin olive oil has been found to alter the structure of certain toxic proteins associated with Alzheimer's. Researchers say the discovery could lead to successful immunotherapy treatments against the disease.

Beta-amyloid oligomers, or ADDLs, bind themselves to the neural synapses of the brain and disrupt nerve cell function, which is one of the first processes associated with Alzheimer's, according to researchers at Monell Chemical Senses Center. By exposing ADDLs to oleocanthal, researchers were able to increase the size of the ADDLs, stopping them from binding to the synapses of the hippocampus, the memory-control center of the brain that is often first affected by Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers also discovered that, once the ADDLs had been enlarged by the oleocanthal, they became a better target for antibodies, the immune system's natural defense mechanism. Clinical trials must support the laboratory results for progress toward potential treatments to occur, experts cautioned. The results of the study will appear in the Oct. 15 edition of the journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology.