MAY 20, 2024 4:12 PM PDT

Good news for those that love extra-virgin olive oil - impact on dementia

WRITTEN BY: Greta Anne

A study in the "Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea" (PREDIMED) trial was recently published in the JAMA Network Open. In this paper, researchers sought to explore the impacts of dietary patterns on cognitive health. Specifically, they investigated the relationship between olive oil consumption and the risk of dementia-related mortality, shedding light on the potential benefits of this dietary component for cognitive health. 

The Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, has long been associated with various health benefits, including cardiovascular health. Olive oil, particularly extra-virgin olive oil, is known for its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidant compounds like polyphenols and vitamin E, which may confer neuroprotective effects. Previous research, predominantly conducted in Mediterranean populations, has suggested a link between olive oil consumption and improved cognitive function and reduced risk of cognitive decline. 

This study followed roughly 90,000 participants over the course of 28 years to investigate the association between olive oil intake and dementia-related mortality. The study found that individuals consuming more than 7 grams of olive oil per day had a 28% lower risk of dying from dementia compared to those who rarely or never consumed olive oil. This association remained even after accounting for factors such as diet quality.

The findings of this study have several important implications:

- First, they suggest that higher olive oil intake may be a potential strategy to reduce the risk of dementia-related mortality. The findings of this study are particularly noteworthy given the lack of effective treatments for dementia.

- Secondly, the study highlights the importance of considering diet quality in conjunction with specific dietary components like olive oil. Even individuals with overall healthier diets can benefit from increasing their olive oil intake.

The properties of olive oil can help mitigate oxidative stress and inflammation, which are implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. Olive oil may also support vascular health, reducing the risk of cerebrovascular events that contribute to dementia. The study also explored potential fat substitutions, finding that replacing other fats like margarine and mayonnaise with olive oil was associated with a lower risk of dementia-related mortality.

“Opting for olive oil, a natural product, instead of fats such as margarine and commercial mayonnaise, is a safe choice and may reduce the risk of fatal dementia,” mentions investigator Anne-Julie Tessier as reported by CNN

Future research should aim to replicate these findings in diverse populations and explore potential sex-specific differences in the association between olive oil consumption and cognitive outcomes. Additionally, figuring out the mechanism of action of how olive oil exerts its neuroprotective effects would also be valuable, and this mechanism of action could potentially be optimized via the process of drug development. 

Prevention of a disease is always easier than treatment of a disease - and this study highlights the role of olive oil in potentially preventing dementia. Incorporating olive oil into daily dietary habits may offer a simple yet effective strategy for supporting brain health as individuals age, especially in a disease with such a high burden.

Sources: Journal of the American Medical Association, CNN

About the Author
Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD)
Greta holds her PharmD and is a writer at Labroots. She also has a strong background in neuroscience & psychology. When she is not working as a pharmacist or a writer, she enjoys fostering her creative initiatives such as traveling, working out, spending time at the beach, and cooking!
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