Adding a little olive oil to meals might reduce your risk of dying from dementia, according to a recent study presented at an annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition.
The study found that consumption of more than a half-tablespoon of olive oil each day is associated with a 28% lower risk of fatal dementia when compared to a diet with little to no consumption of olive oil.
In addition, using 1 teaspoon of olive oil as a substitute for a teaspoon of margarine or mayonnaise each day dropped the risk of dying from dementia by 8% to 14%.
In reaching their conclusions, researchers looked at dietary questionnaires and death records on more than 90,000 Americans that spanned three decades. Of these participants, 4,749 died from dementia during those three decades.
In a summary of the study’s findings, Anne-Julie Tessier, a registered dietitian and a postdoctoral researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says:
“Our study reinforces dietary guidelines recommending vegetable oils such as olive oil and suggests that these recommendations not only support heart health but potentially brain health, as well.”
Although previous research has found that people who use olive oil tend to have healthier diets than those who cook with processed or animal fats, Tessier says the positive relationship between olive oil consumption and better brain health exists independent of the overall quality of a person’s diet.
Tessier cautions that the study itself was observational and thus does not prove that olive oil directly lowers the risk of fatal dementia. However, the findings do suggest that olive oil itself has properties that are uniquely good for boosting cognitive health. As Tessier notes:
“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 has an indirect effect on brain health by benefiting cardiovascular health.”
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the blood-brain barrier is the protective lining of blood vessels located in the brain. It serves to keep harmful things out and keep helpful things in.
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