The process of autophagy is the breakdown and clearance of intercellular debris and toxins by the body’s cells. This process happens to the body naturally when we fast. Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize in 2016 in Physiology and Medicine for his research on autophagy and fasting. (2)
In a new study, extra virgin olive oil was shown to protect the brain and boost cognitive function through this process of autophagy—the gobbling up of toxins and debris from the brain chemistry. (1)
In the study, one group of mice was given a standard chow diet and another group was given a chow diet enriched with extra virgin olive oil.
After just 3 months, the group of mice on the chow diet enriched with extra virgin olive oil performed better on tests that measured working memory, spatial memory, and learning compared to the mice who ate a regular chow diet. (1)
The researchers concluded that mice who were genetically prone to cognitive decline saw significant changes in the brain, such as better nerve conduction, less aggregate accumulation, and positive behavioral changes with extra virgin olive oil supplementation. (1) The mechanism involved was the enhancement of autophagy from supplemental extra virgin olive oil!
Is Your Olive Oil Legit?
Despite stringent standards set by the International Olive Oil Council and the United States Department of Agriculture to regulate the purity of olive oil sold in the U.S., a UC Davis study found a high percentage of the U.S. olive oil brands do not meet the legal standards to be sold as “extra virgin.”
Scientists at The University of California, Davis, evaluated 186 local and imported brands of extra virgin olive oils that were randomly selected from retail shelves in California. They found that 73% of the brands failed the extra virgin olive oil test, based on one or more of the following poor manufacturing procedures: (1-3)
- Oxidation by exposure to high temperatures
- Adulteration with cheaper, highly refined olive oil
- Oils made from olives damaged from storage of the olives
- Oils pressed from over-ripe or highly processed olives
The UC Davis has been challenged by the North American Olive Oil Association, which found that only 2% of olive oil sold in U.S. retail outlets is adulterated.
When sourcing olive oil, look for a harvest and/or press date. It is ideal to ingest the current year’s harvest. If it is a California olive oil, make sure it is certified organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) and be sure it has a seal certifying that the olive oil is certified extra virgin by the California Olive Oil Council (COOC).
If the oil is from Italy, look for a D.O.P. seal (Protected Designation of Origin), which means the olives are from where the label says.
My favorite olive oil company, Fandango, is a small organic olive oil producer out of California that presses their olives right after harvest. I personally use it, and if you try it, you will know what I am talking about when I say it has a “distinctively tangy flavor.” The stuff is 20 bucks a bottle, but if you are as into good fats as I am, you’ll want to be sure you are ingesting something that is guaranteed to be the real thing.
Fandango’s early and late harvest olive oils won 11 gold medals, 7 silver medals, and numerous Best of Class awards in 2012 and 2013 competitions.