Alzheimer's Disease is a frightening type of dementia that leaves people unable to remember even the most basic information. It is estimated that 5 million people in the United States are suffering from Alzheimer's but at the moment their is no cure. Scientists at Temple University believe extra virgin Olive Oil may be able to slow the progression of this illness.

Researchers at Temple University look for a cure

Dr. Domenico Pratico -- a professor of pharmacology and microbiology at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University -- served as the head researcher in a study that investigated how olive oil affected the progression of Alzheimer's Disease.

The ingredient is a staple in the Mediterranean diet, which is often considered the healthiest way to eat.

Genetically modified mice were used to simulate Alzheimer's disease. The mice had been engineered to have the main components of the disorder, including memory impairment and plaque buildup in the brain. They were then split into two groups. One group received a diet with added olive oil and the other had an identical diet but did not have any olive oil added to their food.

The dietary modifications had to be made before the mice reached six months of age to ensure that the changes were made before they started to show symptoms. In order to test how this diet was affecting the mice, researchers had them complete a series of tests over the course of a year.

These tests evaluated both the spacial and learning memory as well as the ability to learn new things and retain new information.

Mice fed a diet rich in extra virgin olive oil had better cognitive capabilities

Dr. Pratico and his team conducted a series of cognitive tests throughout the duration of their research to measure the progression of Alzheimer's disease in the mice.

At 9 months of age, the mice that had been eating olive oil-enriched food did significantly better on these tests. Their success was repeated at 12 months of age. This is important, as it suggests that people who consume extra virgin olive oil throughout their life will be able to function better even if they receive an Alzheimer's diagnosis.

After the first leg of the study was completed, the research team began to examine the mice's brains. They found that the group that had oil added to their food had fewer tangles and less plaque, along with better communication between the two hemispheres of the brain.

The next phase in this study will introduce olive oil into the diet after the mice have already begun to show symptoms of Alzheimer's.