Common kitchen staple could reduce risk of dying from dementia

Eating half a tablespoon of olive oil a day could reduce the risk of dying from dementia.

A study, presented at Nutrition 2023, the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition in Boston, US, analysed dietary questionnaires and death records collected from more than 90,000 Americans over three decades, during which 4,749 people died from dementia.

The findings suggest consuming more than half a tablespoon per day is linked to a 28% lower risk of dying from the condition, compared with those who never or rarely eat the oil.

It also found that replacing just one teaspoon of margarine and mayonnaise with the equivalent amount of olive oil per day was associated with an 8-14% lower risk of dying from dementia.

‘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,’ said Dr Anne-Julie Tessier, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in the US.

‘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.’

Research suggests that people who regularly use olive oil instead of processed or animal fats tend to have healthier diets overall.

However, Dr Tessier noted that the relationship between olive oil and the risk of dying from dementia in this study was independent of overall diet quality.

This may suggest the oil has properties that are uniquely beneficial for brain health.

She added that the research is observational and does not prove that olive oil is the cause of the reduced risk of fatal dementia.

However, Professor David Curtis, UCL, said it was difficult to assess whether the research adds much to the understanding of links between diet, health and dementia risk, as it has not been peer-reviewed.

He said: ‘This kind of observational study will often report an association between a factor and an outcome but that does not imply any causal relationship.

‘There are many, many differences between people who consume olive oil and those who do not and it is never possible to fully account for all possible confounding factors.

‘Another point to bear in mind is that about half of dementia is caused by vascular disease so that anything which improved cardiovascular health, such as not smoking, would be expected to reduce dementia risk.

‘It has been shown that olive oil consumption is associated with better cardiovascular health so one would expect that it would also be associated with lower dementia risk.’

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