(By Denis Greenan). Florence, August 27 - Olive oil - especially the lovingly refined extra-virgin version - has long been known for its potential health benefits as the elixir in the famed Mediterranean diet. But now researchers in Italy say it could also fend off Alzheimer's Disease and other neurological disorders, allowing potential sufferers to keep up brain functions much longer than they would ordinarily have and, crucially, halting the memory loss that comes with most nerve-wasting conditions, causing so much grief to victims and their loved ones. "Extra-virgin olive oil may naturally prevent and reverse the effects of Alzheimer's disease and other neurological disorders brought on by aging," Italian researchers told online science journal Plos One. Scientists at the University of Florence tested their theory on mice afflicted with Alzheimer's, treating them with key nerve-bonding agents called phenols from extra-virgin olive oil over the course of two months. "At the end of treatment they showed the absence of the cognitive and behavioral deficits shown by untreated mice, which we think is a highly valuable result," chief researcher Massimo Stefani told Plos One. Stefani added that the study provides the scientific basis for the known "anti-aging effects of the Mediterranean diet". It could help prevent the long-term neurological damage related to Alzheimer's, a disease for which "there is still no effective therapy and which poses serious social problems, as well as threatening the sustainability of the healthcare system". Olive oil is already known to protect against high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease. Last year a team in Naples said it "almost certainly" played an important role in protecting the body against type 2 diabetes, the more heart-threatening type of the disease, which is often linked to bad eating and lifestyle choices and has a later onset than type 1. Researchers at the Italian Diabetes Society at Federico II University in the southern Italian city found that olive oil reduces by a third the build-up of fat in the liver due to its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids. There is a close relationship between fatty liver disease and the development or presence of type 2 diabetes, by far the most common type with three million diagnosed sufferers in Italy alone. The researchers say it is sufficient to eat a diet rich in olive oil and other products containing high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids for just eight weeks to see a reduction in liver fat. Italy produces 21.5% of the world's olive oil, with Puglia being the biggest harvester.