- A recent study showed a significant correlation between regular olive oil consumption and a decreased dementia mortality rate over a span of three decades.
- Those consuming more than half a tablespoon of olive oil daily had a 28% lower likelihood of succumbing to dementia compared with those who used it rarely.
- While the study does not definitively assert that olive oil prevents dementia, it does highlight known anti-inflammatory properties of olive oil, including omega-3 fatty acids, which might account for this correlation.
- Despite being known for heart-healthy properties, the study found that better cardiovascular health did not explain the olive oil-dementia risk correlation. Instead, beneficial plant compounds – polyphenols – found in olive oil may play a role due to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
- The emphasis is on a holistic approach to diet and lifestyle to promote healthy brain aging, including regular physical activity, mental stimulation, and a plant-based diet. Simply substituting olive oil for margarine can be a simple and effective dietary change.
A recent investigation suggests a switch from margarine to olive oil could help individuals maintain optimal mental health as they age. Drawing on the data of over 90,000 American healthcare professionals, the study demonstrated a notable correlation between regular olive oil consumption and a decreased dementia mortality rate over three decades.
Olive Oil: A Dietary Game Changer
Comparing frequent olive oil consumers with those who used it rarely, the research showed that those consuming more than half a tablespoon daily had a 28% lower likelihood of succumbing to dementia. A simple dietary swap, like trading a daily teaspoon of margarine for an equivalent amount of olive oil, could reduce the dementia-related mortality risk by up to 14%.
Interpreting the Findings
This pioneering study was showcased at the annual conference of the American Society of Nutrition in Boston. While not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal, and thus considered preliminary, the findings have stirred intrigue in the scientific community.
The study refrains from asserting that olive oil prevents dementia, instead highlighting its noteworthy correlation with longevity in the face of dementia. Known for their anti-inflammatory properties, omega-3 fatty acids found in olive oil might be one factor contributing to this correlation.
Olive Oil and Inflammation
Given the suspected links between chronic inflammation and dementia, the regular intake of olive oil could potentially yield protective benefits, proposes nutrition consultant, Connie Diekman. The Mediterranean diet, famous for its rich inclusion of olive oil, has been linked to superior cognitive function in senior adults and a decreased dementia risk.
A Nutrient-Packed Solution
Interestingly, this research revealed the positive correlation between olive oil consumption and reduced dementia death risk, even after adjusting for overall diet quality. Researcher Anne-Julie Tessier, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, emphasized this finding.
Olive oil, renowned for its heart-healthy properties, has been linked to improved blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and vascular function. Given that what benefits the heart usually benefits the brain, it’s thought to also lower dementia risk.
However, this study found that better cardiovascular health did not explain the olive oil-dementia risk correlation. Rather, the beneficial plant compounds – polyphenols – found in olive oil might play a role thanks to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Why Choose Olive Oil
Though the study does not provide definitive answers or prescriptions, it suggests a favourable outcome for those who replace margarine with olive oil in their diets.
The study tracked the health and lifestyle habits of over 90,000 American medical professionals. The average age at the beginning of the study in 1990 was 56. Over the following 28 years, dementia claimed 4,749 of them. Among those consuming over half a tablespoon of olive oil daily, dementia-related deaths were 28% less likely.
The Overall Dietary Picture
Strong emphasis on a holistic approach to diet was echoed by both Tessier and Diekman. Although no single ‘miracle food’ will completely guard against dementia, an array of factors play a role in promoting healthy brain aging. Regular physical activity, mental stimulation, and a plant-based diet are such examples currently being scrutinized for their effect on cognitive decline in older adults.
“More plant foods and fewer animal foods seem to provide a healthier foundation for overall health,” Diekman suggested. Supplementing this, Tessier emphasised that olive oil substitution can be a simple, effective dietary change, taking into account cost considerations.
Discover more about diet and dementia from the National Institute on Aging.
Sources: Anne-Julie Tessier, PhD, RD, postdoctoral fellow, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston; Connie Diekman, RD, MEd, food and nutrition consultant, St. Louis, and former president, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.