How olive oil and AI could combine to treat dementia

Olive oil and artificial intelligence – together at last! That’s probably not a sentence you expected to read today, but this unlikely alliance may help fight Alzheimer’s disease.

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare is something you’re hearing more about. Last week, we highlighted the use of AI at the doctor/patient level, but its use in medical research is becoming widespread.

But how can it be used in conjunction with olive oil?

In this instance, researchers from the UK, US and Europe joined forces to look deeper into the medical potential of olive oil. More specifically they focused on extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), previously identified as a possible factor in preventing cognitive decline.

The researchers wanted to identify the bioactive phytochemicals most likely linked to limiting the development and progression of Alzheimer’s. To do that, they modelled the interplay between disease-causing proteins and proteins disrupted by drugs or EVOO phytochemicals.

Their machine learning predictive model was trained using drugs expected to affect Alzheimer’s and drugs that have no effect.

The model allowed them to predict with about 70 per cent accuracy which drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically for Alzheimer’s were in phase 3 and 4 trials as opposed to all other FDA-approved drugs not in Alzheimer’s trials.

From there, they created 64 other models used for scoring the EVOO phytochemicals. The probabilities of phytochemicals predicted to be similar to the drugs in FDA phase 3 and 4 trials were then averaged to produce the final consensus prediction.

Put simply, AI enabled the identification of EVOO chemicals considered most likely to be biologically active in treating Alzheimer’s. Ten specific chemicals were identified as having the highest probability of affecting Alzheimer protein networks.

Without machine learning, such an identification may still have been made, but almost certainly not as quickly.

What about the old-fashioned way of researching?

Some would argue that this AI-based research simply confirms what we already knew. An association between a Mediterranean diet, rich in EVOO, and a lower risk of cognitive decline is not exactly ‘news’.

That is true, but the AI approach in identifying specific therapeutic chemicals within EVOO opens up further possibilities.

These include identifying which olives produce more of these chemicals, and perhaps even modifying olives to produce more of them. In addition, identifying the active chemicals opens up the possibility of creating more effective, targeted drug treatments.

None of this is to say that ‘traditional’ non-AI research is no longer useful. Indeed it remains very much a part of mainstream medical research. A big new study, presented recently at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition in Boston, exemplifies this. It found having more than half a tablespoon of olive oil daily significantly lowered the risk of death from dementia.

The study used traditional ‘cohort’ methods, with results based on data from more than 90,000 Americans with an average age of 56. Those having more than a daily half teaspoon of olive oil lowered their dementia death risk by 28 per cent.

So there you have it. Olive oil and artificial intelligence – an odd couple if ever there was one – can work together to help fight dementia.

Is extra virgin olive oil a big part of your diet? Will the results of this research inspire you to include more? Let us know via the comments section below.

Also read: Activities that best protect against dementia

Health disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *