There’s a chemical being studied for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease called GLP-1. GLP-1 (Glucagon-Like Peptide) is something the body makes naturally to help control blood sugar. As such, GLP-1 related drugs have been used for more than 10 years to treat diabetes. Since Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases also have a blood glucose dysregulation component, some bright scientists decided to try the GLP-1 related drugs in animal models of these diseases. It turns out that GLP-1 related drugs can improve brain function and prevent neurodegeneration in animal models. That was exciting enough to head to clinical trials – and the results of the first trials in people with Parkinson’s show promise.(1)
As we wait for this new class of drugs to be released, let’s recall that GLP-1 is a chemical that the brain makes naturally. So how can we trigger our own production of GLP-1. Fat – specifically olive oil – has been shown to increase GLP-1.(2)
Not all fats are created equal. Fats have different lengths of their fatty acid arms. Thus, we often label fats as being short chain, medium chain, and long chain. Olive oil has long chains. Interestingly, some of the fats that we think of as healthiest, things like coconut oil and macadamia nut oil, have medium chains. The medium chain triglycerides don’t stimulate GLP-1 production.
The next time you’re making a salad dressing, or cooking Italian food, remember that a couple of spoonfuls of olive oil could be great for your brain!
1 Hölscher C. Insulin, incretins and other growth factors as potential novel treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Biochem Soc Trans. 2014 Apr;42(2):593-9. doi: 10.1042/BST20140016.
2 Mandøe MJ, Hansen KB, Hartmann B, Rehfeld JF, Holst JJ, Hansen HS. The 2-monoacylglycerol moiety of dietary fat appears to be responsible for the fat-induced release of GLP-1 in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Sep;102(3):548-55. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.106799. Epub 2015 Jul 15.
For a 1 hour webinar on Parkinson’s and Nutrition that Heather gave as part of the PD expert briefing series, please go to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation Nutrition and Parkinson’s – pdf.org