Olive oil linked to lower dementia risk

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Recent research reveals that people who regularly consume olive oil might have a lower risk of dying from dementia-related causes.

This finding comes from a study published in the journal JAMA Network Open, which looked at two large groups of professionals in the health field over several decades.

The study involved 92,383 participants, predominantly women, with an average age of 56. Researchers tracked their health and dietary habits over 28 years, during which 37,649 participants died, including 4,751 from dementia-related causes.

At the start, the average daily olive oil intake among participants was relatively low, at only 1.3 grams.

The study found that individuals who consumed more than 7 grams of olive oil daily (roughly half a tablespoon) had a 28% lower risk of dementia-related death compared to those who consumed little or no olive oil.

This amount of olive oil is less than what many might drizzle on a salad or use for cooking a meal.

Those who ate more olive oil tended to have healthier overall diets and lifestyles. They consumed more calories but didn’t necessarily have a higher body mass index (BMI), an indicator of obesity.

They also drank more alcohol but were more physically active and less likely to smoke.

Caroline Thomason, a dietitian not involved in the study, noted that olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, which are known to support brain health. This aligns with other studies suggesting that heart-healthy fats can also benefit the brain.

The researchers also explored what happens if people replace less healthy fats with olive oil.

They discovered that swapping just 5 grams of fats from sources like margarine and mayonnaise with olive oil each day could reduce the risk of dementia-related deaths by 8% to 14%. However, replacing butter or other vegetable oils with olive oil didn’t show a significant impact.

Interestingly, the protective effect of olive oil seemed to hold regardless of the overall quality of the person’s diet. This suggests that the benefits of olive oil might be strong enough to offer protection even if other dietary choices are not as healthy.

Anne Danahy, another dietitian who reviewed the findings, wasn’t surprised by the results. She highlighted that olive oil is not only rich in antioxidants like vitamin E and polyphenols, which protect brain cells, but also has anti-inflammatory properties.

Since inflammation can accelerate aging and is linked to cognitive decline and dementia, the anti-inflammatory effect of olive oil could be particularly beneficial.

For those looking to include more olive oil in their diet, simple tips include using it as a base for salad dressings or drizzling it over foods before cooking.

While olive oil is a staple in many healthy diets, butter and other fats still have their place in cooking, depending on the flavor and cooking method desired.

Besides its potential to reduce dementia risk, olive oil has also been linked to lower risks of heart disease, cancer, and other serious health issues in various studies. Given its wide-ranging health benefits, incorporating olive oil into meals could be a smart choice for most people.

Finally, while some might consider taking olive oil supplements, experts like Thomason recommend sticking to the food itself. Real olive oil in cooking or salads is likely more beneficial and enjoyable than any supplement could be.

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