benefits of olive oil for reducing dementia risk

Olive Oil May Reduce Dementia Risk

Incorporating about half a tablespoon of olive oil into your daily diet could significantly reduce the risk of dying from dementia. This finding is crucial as many nations grapple with increasing rates of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

New Study Insights

A recent study published in JAMA Network Open on May 6 explores the link between diet and dementia-related deaths. This pioneering research followed approximately 90,000 participants for nearly three decades. Researchers discovered that consuming seven grams of olive oil daily was associated with a lower risk of dementia-related mortality. Additionally, replacing margarine or mayonnaise with olive oil showed a similar reduction in dementia-related deaths.

These findings, initially presented on July 23 at the NUTRITION 2023 meeting of the American Society of Nutrition, emphasize the potential health benefits of olive oil.

Expert Opinions

Anne-Julie Tessier, RD, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, highlighted the study’s implications in a news release: “Our study reinforces dietary guidelines recommending vegetable oils such as olive oil. These recommendations not only support heart health but potentially brain health as well. Opting for olive oil over fats like margarine and commercial mayonnaise is a safe choice and may reduce the risk of fatal dementia.”

Understanding Dementia

Dementia is an umbrella term for conditions characterized by a decline in cognitive function severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease, affecting over 6 million Americans, is the most prevalent form and is considered fatal due to the lack of a cure.

Olive Oil’s Benefits for Brain Health

The study by Tessier and colleagues analyzed dietary data from over 90,000 Americans—60,582 women and 31,801 men—collected over three decades starting in 1990. Participants completed a dietary questionnaire every four years, providing insights into their overall diet and olive oil consumption.

During the study period, 4,749 participants died from dementia. The data revealed that individuals consuming more than half a tablespoon of olive oil daily had a 28% lower risk of dying from dementia compared to those who rarely or never consumed olive oil. Furthermore, substituting five grams (about one teaspoon) of margarine or mayonnaise with olive oil was linked to an 8-14% lower risk of fatal dementia, independent of overall diet quality.

The study also noted that participants who died from dementia were more likely to carry the APOe4 gene, which increases Alzheimer’s risk and elevates cholesterol levels. However, the results remained consistent even after adjusting for the APOe4 gene.

While the research is observational and does not prove causation, it suggests that olive oil may possess properties beneficial to brain health in addition to its well-known cardiovascular benefits. Tessier commented, “Some antioxidant compounds in olive oil can cross the blood-brain barrier, potentially having a direct effect on the brain. It is also possible that olive oil indirectly benefits brain health by supporting cardiovascular health.”

Health Benefits of Olive Oil

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats like olive oil to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and reduce cardiovascular disease risk. A 2021 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that consuming more than half a tablespoon of olive oil daily was associated with a 14% lower risk of heart disease compared to no olive oil consumption.

Olive oil has also been shown to reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes. Substituting olive oil for other fats like mayonnaise, butter, and margarine has been linked to an 8–34% lower risk of death from all causes, including cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and respiratory diseases.

In summary

While the new study offers promising results and supports the inclusion of olive oil in a healthy diet, further research is necessary to understand its full impact on brain health and dementia-related death, and to determine optimal consumption levels.

In conclusion, the new findings align with current dietary recommendations, adding more evidence for using olive oil instead of less healthy fats like mayonnaise and margarine. Adopting a diet rich in olive oil not only supports heart health but also offers hope for preventing or slowing the progression of dementia

A Quick Review

Incorporating half a tablespoon of olive oil into your daily diet may lower the risk of dying from dementia. A new study suggests that consuming seven grams of olive oil daily, or replacing margarine or mayonnaise with olive oil, is linked to reduced dementia-related mortality.

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