Daily Spoonful Of Olive Oil Linked To 28 Percent Lower Risk Of Death From Dementia

A spoonful of olive oil a day could help keep dementia at bay, according to a new study. From observations of almost 100,000 adults over 28 years, the researchers found that consuming more than 7 grams (0.25 ounces) of olive oil per day was associated with a 28 percent lower risk of dementia-related death, irrespective of what else people ate.

Olive oil is famously an important component of the Mediterranean diet, which has long been touted as beneficial to many aspects of health. It crops up in other lifestyle plans too, like the Mediterranean diet’s northerly cousin, the Atlantic diet, especially since the focus in the nutrition world has shifted away from the low-fat obsession that characterized much of the 20th century.

But as well as being good for our bodies, can olive oil be good for our brains?

In total, 92,383 participants were included in the study, with a mean age of 56.4 years. All participants were adult medical professionals from the US who had been enrolled in one of two large cohort studies, one launching in 1976 and the other in 1986. The participants were sent periodic questionnaires, but information about olive oil consumption specifically only started to be gathered in 1990.

The final dataset contained 60,582 women and 31,801 men, after excluding those with incomplete information and those who already had a history of cardiovascular disease or cancer. Over 28 years of follow-up, 4,751 dementia-related deaths were recorded.

The risk of dying from dementia was found to be 28 percent lower in those who had more than 7 grams of olive oil daily – the equivalent of about half a tablespoon – compared with people who rarely or never consumed it. Surprisingly, what people ate the rest of the time didn’t seem to make an enormous difference.

“Typically, people who use olive oil for cooking or as a dressing have a better overall diet quality, but interestingly, we found the association to be regardless of this factor,” first author Dr Anne-Julie Tessier told Healthline back when the findings were presented at a conference last year.

The study did find that there could be a benefit to swapping out a small portion of margarine or mayonnaise every day with olive oil (though personally, we’d probably stick to mayo for dipping fries). “These findings extend the current dietary recommendations of choosing olive oil and other vegetable oils to the context of cognitive health and related mortality,” the study concludes.

      

With studies like this, it’s important to understand exactly what the data are showing. “This is an observational study, so it doesn’t show a direct cause and effect,” registered dietician nutritionist Anne Danahy, who was not involved in the research, explained to Medical News Today. In a recent episode of the series Impact Factor for Medscape, Yale’s Dr F. Perry Wilson explained in detail why the study’s results should be interpreted with caution.

In short, we can’t say for sure from these data that eating a certain amount of olive oil will directly decrease your risk of dying from dementia, but we can say that the two things appear to be correlated.

A balanced diet will include a mix of oils for different purposes, but olive oil is a good all-rounder. As a source of unsaturated fat, many dietetics professionals already recommend it for its links to good heart health, and now this large study suggests those benefits could extend to the brain as well. If you can get your hands on some – and let’s face it, in this economy that’s no joke – there’s probably no harm in eating a little more of it.

Just ask any Italians in your life.

The study is published in JAMA Network Open.

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