Can your diet influence your risk for Alzheimer's Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a debilitating neurodegenerative disease characterized by cognitive decline and currently affects more than 50 million people worldwide and puts a massive strain on the health care system of a country.1 The incident rate of AD increases substantially with age, with only 2% at 65 years of age, 13% at 90 years of age, and 21% at 95 years of age, respectively.2 As a result, developed countries with large ageing populations are predicted to take the most strain.
AD is a multi-factorial disease believed to be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. The hallmarks of AD refer to the deposition of amyloid-β (Aβ), or plaques, outside neurons which disrupt communication between brain cells, and trigger inflammation and twisted strands of the protein ‘tau’ inside neurons, which contribute to neurodegeneration in the brain.3
There is currently no cure for AD, only a range of medications that may slow the progression of the disease or improve symptoms. Unfortunately, available drugs are not very effective and have adverse side effects.1 As a result, there is a large drive to study AD, its risk factors, preventative measures as well as possible treatments. In this article, we look at how coffee and extra virgin olive oil can play a role in the prevention of AD.
Can coffee be used as a preventative measure against AD?
Coffee contains components that offer neuroprotective effects independent of each other. These components include caffeine, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and trigonelline. Chlorogenic acid reduces blood-brain barrier (BBB) damage, while caffeic acid is antioxidative and anti-inflammatory, thereby helping reduce cognitive decline. To learn more about the blood-brain barrier, click here. Trigonelline has been shown to alleviate neuronal loss by reducing oxidative stress and neuroinflammation.3
Your brain consists of both white matter and grey matter. The grey matter consists of neuronal cell bodies and their dendrites that communicate with neurons nearby while, your white matter is made up of long axons of neurons that transmit impulses to more distant regions of your brain. When there is an abnormal build-up of the amyloid and tau proteins during AD, nerve cells in your grey matter can die and result in a higher number of white matter lesions. This increase in the number of white matter lesions is associated with cognitive decline in dementia/AD. Interestingly, caffeine consumption decreases the number of white matter lesions in cognitively stable elders.3
Not only do chronic coffee consumers have increased cerebral blood flow, suggesting a neuroprotective mechanism but, consuming high amounts of caffeine has been associated with a lower risk of developing brain lesions. There seem to be several ways in which coffee provides neuroprotective effects however, one of the most important ways is by reducing the levels of Aβ in the brain.3 While substantial research has been done to elucidate the link between coffee and AD/dementia, and some evidence supports the neuroprotective role, more research is required to solidify this link.2
Can extra virgin olive oil be used as a preventative measure against AD?
The Mediterranean diet is the diet that people living in areas of the Mediterranean basin follow. Click here to learn why the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest diets in the world. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is the main dietary fat in Mediterranean countries, the primary source of monounsaturated fatty acids, as well as a necessary source of polyphenols and antioxidants.4 Click here to read all about EVOO, its properties and its health benefits.
The pro-inflammatory and amyloidogenic (growth of amyloid structures) protein S100A9 is a significant contributor to both the amyloid and neuroinflammatory pathways in AD. During inflammation, the level of S100A rises and may affect its amyloid self-assembly and tissue damage, which is seen in neurodegenerative diseases. In AD, S100A9 assembles with Aβ, leading to the build-up of amyloid inside of the cells and amyloid plaque growth outside of the neural cells. Since the whole amyloid pathway can potentially be altered or reversed by targeting the S100A9 protein, it is a possible target for treatments for AD.5
Special attention has been placed on oleuropein and its derivatives which are present in high quantities in EVOO as they offer protective functionalities, including anti-oxidant, anti-viral, anti-tumour, antimicrobial, cardio-protective, neuroprotective, anti-ageing, anti-diabetic, and anti-inflammatory effects. Polyphenol oleuropein aglycone (OleA) is the most abundant compound in EVOO and can inhibit S100A9 amyloid accumulation in several ways as well as break apart already-formed fibrils, converting them into non-toxic aggregates. Through these mechanisms, OleA alleviates the consequences of the amyloid-neuroinflammatory pathway caused by the S100A9 in neurodegenerative diseases.5
The expression of BMI1 (B lymphoma Mo-MLV insertion region 1 homolog) has a significant neuroprotective effect as it causes the activation of antioxidant defenses and suppression of Reactive Oxidative Species (ROS) levels. The big question is whether BMI1 has a significant role in AD and if EVOO could be used to reverse the onset of AD. EVOO treatment in patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment for 12 months increased BMI1 levels, lowered p53 levels, and the levels of AD biomarkers (markers indicating the presence of AD) returned to normal. The onset of neurodegenerative diseases is driven by neuroinflammation; two common hallmarks of neuroinflammation include Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha (TNF-α) and Interleukin-6 (IL-6). Not surprisingly, IL-6 levels are increased in AD due to the presence of Aβ plaques. EVOO treatment for a year was shown to prevent the increase of IL-6 and TNF-α levels (reducing the inflammatory and oxidative stress responses), which also correlates with BMI1 restoration. As you can see EVOO contains many beneficial compounds and may have the potential to work as an alternative therapy for preventing the onset of AD.6
For many years, AD has been a heartbreaking disease with the current treatments offering very little hope for patients and their families. However, advancements in artificial intelligence together with the explosive increase in multi-source data about food, drugs, and diseases, provide many more opportunities to identify molecules that can prevent and/or reverse specific diseases.
So what is the take-home message?
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a pressing global health challenge, affecting millions and straining healthcare systems. While there is no cure, research suggests promising avenues for prevention. Caffeine, found in coffee, exhibits neuroprotective properties, potentially reducing AD risk through its impact on white matter lesions, cerebral blood flow, and amyloid-β levels. EVOO a staple of the Mediterranean diet, contains oleuropein, which has shown promise in countering the inflammation and amyloid pathways associated with AD. EVOO may also positively influence neuroprotective protein levels and mitigate inflammation, making it a potential preventative therapy. While more research is needed, these findings offer hope in the fight against AD.
M2Bio Sciences is a bioceutical company focused on alternative plant-based cannabinoids and mental health therapeutic research. M2Bio Science’s mission is to advance botanical-based medicine to the forefront by deploying best-practice science and medicine, clinical research, and emerging technologies. As one of a handful of companies in the world, M2Bio Sciences is actively researching the CBD compound to discover novel indications for different medical conditions.
The company has two consumer-facing brands, Medspresso™ and Liviana™. These brands offer a range of premium CBD-infused foods and beverages. M2Bio Sciences focuses on producing and sourcing the highest-quality ingredients available in the market, from pharmaceutical-grade CBD extract to premium coffees and extra virgin olive oil. All our products are ethically and sustainably produced in South Africa.
- Watt G, Karl T. 2017. In vivo evidence for therapeutic properties of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Alzheimer’s Disease. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 8(20):1-7. Available here.
- Zhou X, Zhang L. 2021. The neuroprotective effects of moderate and regular caffeine consumption in Alzheimer’s Disease. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2021(5568011):1–18. Available here.
- M Yelanchezian YM, Waldvogel HJ, Faull RLM, et al. 2022. Neuroprotective effect of caffeine in Alzheimer’s Disease. Molecules, 27(12):3737. Available here.
- Román GC, Jackson RE, Reis J, et al. 2019. Extra-virgin olive oil for potential prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. Revue Neurologique, 175:705-723. Available here.
- Leri M, Chaudhary H, Iashchishyn IA, et al. 2021. Natural compound from olive oil inhibits S100A9 amyloid formation and cytotoxicity: Implications for preventing Alzheimer’s Disease. ACS Chemical Neuroscience, 12(11):1905–18. Available here.
- Tzekaki EE, Papaspyropoulos A, Tsolaki M, et al. 2021. Restoration of BMI1 levels after the administration of early harvest extra virgin olive oil as a therapeutic strategy against Alzheimer’s disease. Experimental Gerontology, 144(111178):488-498. Available here.