Olives 'could help to reduce dementia risk

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When his grandmother developed dementia, Syed Haris Omar took a particular interest in the medications she had been prescribed.

With a background in pharmacology, Dr Omar realised the medications would treat his grandmother's symptoms, but there was no clinical treatment for dementia - of which Alzheimer's disease is one of the most common forms.

"Alzheimer's is the second highest cause of death in Australia and there is no clinical treatment, there's only symptomatic relief," he said.

Dr Omar's research looked at the benefits of olives, and his research with mice found that a compound in the fruit helped to prevent Alzheimer's in mice.

Dementia is an umbrella term where Alzheimer's disease exists as one of its most common forms, he said.

It is clinically characterised by severe deficit in memory, cognitive impairment, and personality disorders in the aged population.

"Over the past three decades, we've seen growing evidence for a link between dietary modification, active life and the incidence of Alzhiemer's disease," Dr Omar said.

"A combination of eating a balanced diet and daily exercise has shown significant results in reducing the risk and progression of the disease."

Dr Omar's research showed the 'phenolic' compounds found in olives and other fruit like berries inhibited enzymes believed to be responsible for the formation of toxic amyloid beta plaques, one of the problems in Alzheimer's disease.

Now a senior lecturer in pharmacology at Wagga Rural Clinical School of the University of NSW, Dr Omar will give a free talk about dementia and healthy lifestyles during March as part of NSW Seniors Festival 2020.

Dr Omar said there can be a genetic factor behind people developing dementia, but there were also other influences.

"Obviously, ageing is one of these. After the age of 65 years, Alzheimer's disease is more common," he said.

"I'll be talking about the effects of lifestyle and dietary habits and even if someone is isolated and how this affects dementia."

Dr Omar said people should pay attention to their lifestyle, not smoking and doing regular physical exercise, as well as adopting a healthy diet.

He also suggests a regular intake of olives - Australian-grown where possible - either as extra virgin oil or leaf extract.

Dr Omar will be offering more advice in his lecture at the Rural Medical School in Docker Street, on Wednesday, March 4, from 10am.

Period21 Feb 2020

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