Diet High in Olive Oil Linked to Reduced Risk of Alzheimer’s, Harvard Study Finds

by Ella

A recent study conducted by researchers from Harvard University has revealed that individuals who incorporate at least seven grams of olive oil into their daily diet experience a 28% lower risk of developing dementia compared to those who do not consume olive oil. The research, based on data collected from over 150,000 individuals in the United States, sheds light on the potential cognitive benefits of olive oil consumption.


Published in the journal JAMA Network Open, the study builds upon previous research conducted in Mediterranean countries, which had already suggested a correlation between higher olive oil intake and a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.


Ramon Estruch, a researcher at the Clínic Hospital in Barcelona and scientific director of the Mediterranean Diet Foundation, emphasizes the cognitive benefits of olive oil, attributing them to the polyphenols present in this dietary staple. According to Estruch, observations in Mediterranean regions have demonstrated the positive impact of olive oil, particularly extra virgin olive oil, on cognitive function and stroke risk reduction.


The study, co-led by Catalan researcher Marta Guasch-Ferré, analyzed data from approximately 90,000 female nurses and 60,000 male health professionals over a 28-year period, from 1990 to 2018. Participants, with an average age of 56 in 1990, provided detailed information about their dietary habits through periodic questionnaires.


Researchers categorized participants into four groups based on their levels of olive oil consumption: high (more than 7 grams per day), medium (between 4.5 and 7 grams per day), low (between 0 and 4.5 grams per day), and none. Over the course of the study, 4,751 dementia-related deaths were recorded among the participants.

The findings revealed a clear association between olive oil consumption and reduced dementia risk, with higher consumption levels correlating to lower risk percentages. Compared to non-consumers, individuals with low, moderate, and high olive oil consumption experienced risk reductions of 12%, 16%, and 28%, respectively.

Importantly, the observed benefits of olive oil consumption remained significant even after accounting for other dietary and lifestyle factors, except for the types of fats consumed. Despite higher olive oil intake being associated with increased alcohol consumption, total calorie intake, and cholesterol levels, the cognitive benefits persisted.

According to Guasch-Ferré, the polyphenols present in olive oil play a crucial role in reducing inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain, thereby mitigating brain pathologies associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, olive oil’s positive effects on cardiovascular health contribute to the prevention of cognitive decline.

In Spain, the Predimed study, which stands for “prevention with Mediterranean diet,” recommended a daily intake of between four and five tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, primarily as a dressing. This recommendation, significantly higher than the 7 grams considered high consumption in the United States, was associated with improved cognitive performance in verbal fluency and memory tests.

The study underscores the potential cognitive benefits of incorporating olive oil into one’s diet and highlights its role in promoting brain health and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. As research in this area continues to evolve, further exploration of the mechanisms underlying olive oil’s protective effects on cognitive function is warranted.


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