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Extra Virgin Olive Oil Staves off Alzheimer's Disease

Researchers at Temple University have found that extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) can protect the brain against Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline. USA Today reported on this study, which found mice who consumed a diet enriched with EVOO demonstrated superior learning abilities and memory compared to their peers who consumed none of the oil. 

The researchers found that EVOO protected neuron connections, reduced inflammation and activated the autophagy process. The term autophagy means "self-eating," and refers to the processes by which your body cleans out debris, including toxins, and recycles damaged cell components. Autophagy plays a key role in your body’s ability to detoxify, repair and regenerate itself.

The health benefits of olive oil and the popularity of the Mediterranean diet have led to a surge on olive oil sales over the past decade. Consumption has increased more than 10-fold over the past 35 years and sales top $16 billion annually. This has resulted in rampant profiteering and a glut of adulterated products on the market. Anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of olive oil sold in American grocery stores has been adulterated with non-human grade olive oil and even cheap, oxidized, omega-6 vegetable oils, such as sunflower oil or peanut oil. 

Chances are, you've been eating poor-quality olive oil so long — or you've never tasted a pure, high-quality olive oil to begin with — you don't even realize there's something wrong with it. How can you make sure that you are not being cheated and sold low-quality olive oil? 

Checking the country of origin is not enough. It is a mistake to think that just because an olive oil comes from Italy it must be authentic and high-quality. Italy does not produce enough extra virgin olive oil to meet even its own domestic demand, so very little of its highest quality oil ever leaves the country. To make matters worse, just because it comes from Italy does not mean it was grown and made there, because Italy is also the world's largest importer of olive oil. They buy oil from several countries, including Tunisia, Syria, Morocco and Spain, which is then blended, bottled and exported.

High-quality olive oil is pressed within a couple of hours of picking. Poorer quality olive oils may be pressed 10 hours after the olives are picked. Ideally the oil should be pressed in under an hour but certainly within a few hours. The "harvest" date should be less than 6 months old when you use it.

As for the best place to buy olive oil, look for stores where taste testing is allowed and encouraged, such as gourmet stores or specialty retailers. Once you are familiar with the taste of high-quality olive oil, you will never be fooled by low-grade impostors and adulterated oils. It has a fresh and fruity flavor that is impossible to miss. 

Olive oil is best used cold (57 to 70 degrees F) and drizzled over a salad or on top of homemade hummus. Olive oil is NOT good for cooking. Due to its chemical structure and a large amount of monounsaturated fats such as oleic acid, cooking makes extra virgin olive oil very susceptible to oxidative damage.

Consuming oxidized, rancid oil is not going to benefit your health, so when you need an oil to cook with, coconut oil is the ideal choice, because it is one of the only commonly used vegetable fats stable enough to resist heat-induced damage. 
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