Want To Prevent Dementia? Swap Out Other Oils For This, Study Says
As dementia rates continue to rise worldwide, we're all looking for ways to preserve and maintain our brain health as we age. And according to new research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition in Boston, there's one simple dietary swap that could reduce your risk of dying from dementia—here's what they found.
Studying the brain on olive oil
For this study, researchers wanted to dig into the connection between olive oil consumption and dementia rates, namely looking at how olive oil consumption impacted participants' likelihood of dying from dementia.
The research had a large sample size of 90,000 medical professionals who were part of two long-term studies on health and lifestyle factors. The studies spanned nearly 30 years, with the average participant being 56 years old when they began in 1990.
Over the next 28 years, the data showed that nearly 5,000 of those participants died from dementia. However, the study authors observed that risk was 28% lower for participants who regularly consumed olive oil (more specifically, they were consuming over half a tablespoon per day) compared to those who rarely used it.
Interestingly, this finding was independent of overall dietary choices, suggesting that a simple swap of olive oil when you might use margarine or mayonnaise could have brain-healthy benefits, regardless of the rest of your diet.
And while this research only shows a link, as opposed to offering an explanation for why, the researchers concluded that replacing just one daily teaspoon of margarine or mayonnaise with olive oil could lower the risk of dying from dementia by 8 to 14%.
It's worth mentioning, as well, that this isn't the first time research has suggested olive oil has brain benefits. One 2022 study1 published in Nutrients found that people with mild cognitive impairment who were supplemented with 30 mL of extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) per day for six months experienced significant improvements in behavioral and clinical dementia rating (CDR) scores.
The researchers from that study also discovered that the EVOO helped enhance the function of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), while the breakdown and dysfunction of the BBB are associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease.
What to do about it
While this study is an example of correlation and not causation and still needs to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, the findings offer yet another instance of the benefits of olive oil.
So if you regularly use mayonnaise or vegetable oils in your cooking, or even salad dressings, swapping it out for 1 teaspoon of olive oil is a simple brain-boosting solution.
Curious about which options are best? Here are our 12 favorite olive oils to help you choose.
Another way to support your brain health is with research-backed nutrients, botanicals, and bioactives. The research is particularly strong for neuronutrient citicoline, as well as phytonutrients like resveratrol. Don't know where to start? Don't fret —we've consulted a nutrition scientist to compile a list of memory-supporting supplements featuring these ingredients.
Olive oil has so many benefits, and one of those benefits may very well be helping to prevent dementia. And no matter how old you are, it's never too early to make simple swaps that benefit your well-being for life.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.