Common cooking ingredient could reduce dementia mortality risk, study suggests


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Infusing more olive oil into your diet could pay big dividends for cognitive health and longevity, a new study suggests.

Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and other universities analyzed population health data for more than 92,000 adults over a 28-year period. The participants’ average age was 56 and none of them had heart disease or cancer.

They found that people who consumed over 7 grams a day of olive oil had a 28% lower risk of dementia-related death compared to those who rarely or never consumed it.

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This was the case regardless of the quality of the person’s diet.

The dietary data was gathered from questionnaires; people reported their frequency of olive oil consumption. 

Researchers then compared that to the rate of dementia death.

Adding more olive oil to your diet could reduce your risk of dementia-related death, a new study suggests. (iStock)

“Substituting olive oil intake for margarine and mayonnaise was associated with lower risk of dementia mortality and may be a potential strategy to improve longevity free of dementia,” the researchers wrote in the study findings. 

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“These findings extend the current dietary recommendations of choosing olive oil and other vegetable oils to the context of cognitive health and related mortality.”

The benefits of consuming olive oil come from its antioxidant properties, according to Lindsay Allan, registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Back in Balance Nutrition, LLC, in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Allan was not involved in the Harvard study.

woman dresses salad with oil

The benefits of consuming olive oil come from its antioxidant properties, a nutritionist pointed out. (iStock)

“Oxidative stress is one of the main root causes of disease — this is why we always talk about consuming plenty of antioxidant-rich foods that have the capability to ‘quench’ those free radicals or ‘oxidants’ that are causing damage to our cells,” she told Fox News Digital. 

“Extra virgin olive oil is one of those foods that are super high in phenolic compounds, which act as potent antioxidants in the body,” she continued.

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“So it makes sense that consuming olive oil frequently — as opposed to those highly oxidized, processed seed oils that we find all over grocery stores — would mitigate the damage to the neurons caused by oxidative stress.”

Tanya Freirich, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Charlotte, North Carolina, who practices as The Lupus Dietitian, was not involved in the study but commented on the health benefits of olive oil.

Pan

“A higher omega-3 intake is known to reduce dementia and cognitive decline,” said a registered dietitian nutritionist. (iStock)

“Olive oil is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, a nutritious fat that many people don’t consume enough of,” she told Fox News Digital.  

“A higher omega-3 intake is known to reduce dementia and cognitive decline. It’s great to see the association between consuming olive oil, a great source of omega 3s, and a reduced risk of dementia.”

“It would be wonderful if a particular food could delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease, but we do not have scientific evidence that these claims are true.”

Experts from the Alzheimer’s Association noted that the study had “significant limitations.”

“This study looked at people’s health records, death records, diet, and food frequency questionnaires to try to identify possible connections between specific food intake and risk of dementia-related death,” noted Rebecca M. Edelmayer, PhD, senior director of scientific engagement at the Alzheimer’s Association.

“It is not an intervention study where some people ate olive oil and some didn’t — which is the ‘gold standard’ for the way a treatment clinical trial is conducted. That means this study can show an association or connection between two things, but can’t prove cause and effect.”

Dementia doctor with patient

Many factors beyond diet contribute to dementia risk, experts agreed. (iStock)

Edelmayer also noted that death records may not be a reliable determination of dementia mortality, because dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are often “underreported” as a cause of death.

There is also a need for studies among wider populations, Edelmayer added, as this one mainly focused on non-Hispanic White people.

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“There is good, quality evidence that consuming more olive oil and similar vegetable oils and less animal fats has health benefits, in particular heart health benefits,” she said. 

“It would be wonderful if a particular food could delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease, but we do not have scientific evidence that these claims are true. We need randomized controlled clinical trials to evaluate whether any foods have a scientifically proven beneficial effect.”

Close up shot of a woman holding a plate of fresh green salad in the beautiful morning light. She's holding a fork and she's about to eat the vegetarian food. Healthy eating and diet concept. Shallow depth of field with focus on the fork.

“In addition to olive oil intake, people should still aim to exercise regularly … and consume other healthy foods for the most protection against developing dementia,” a nutritionist advised. (iStock)

Experts agree that a multitude of factors come into play when assessing dementia risk.

“In addition to olive oil intake, people should still aim to exercise regularly, keep up with hobbies that stimulate their mind, and consume other healthy foods for the most protection against developing dementia,” Frierich said.

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“Additionally, other habits like smoking and alcohol use or health conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol can contribute to the development of dementia.”

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It’s also important to maintain regularly scheduled doctors’ appointments to manage other health risks, according to the experts.

Fox News Digital reached out to the study authors for additional comment.

For more Health articles, visit www.foxnews.com/health



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