Home Mind & Brain Long-Term Olive Oil Consumption Linked to Lower Dementia Mortality, Study Finds

Long-Term Olive Oil Consumption Linked to Lower Dementia Mortality, Study Finds

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A recent study published in JAMA Network Open has found that higher consumption of olive oil is associated with a significantly lower risk of dementia-related mortality. Conducted over 28 years, the study observed 92,383 participants from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS), revealing promising results for cognitive health linked to dietary habits.

The study’s primary finding was that individuals who consumed more than 7 grams per day of olive oil had a 28% lower risk of dying from dementia-related causes compared to those who never or rarely consumed olive oil. This association held true even after adjusting for various factors including genetic predispositions, sociodemographic variables, and lifestyle factors.

Participants included women from the NHS and men from the HPFS, who were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer at the study’s outset in 1990. The study excluded individuals with pre-existing conditions and those with implausible total energy intakes. The researchers used food frequency questionnaires administered every four years to assess olive oil intake, categorizing it into four levels: never or less than once per month, greater than 0 to less than or equal to 4.5 grams per day, greater than 4.5 grams to less than or equal to 7 grams per day, and greater than 7 grams per day.

Interestingly, the study also evaluated the combined effects of diet quality and olive oil consumption. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet and the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) were used as indicators of overall diet quality. The results showed that the protective effects of olive oil against dementia-related mortality were independent of overall diet quality. Participants who consumed higher amounts of olive oil consistently showed lower risks of dementia-related deaths regardless of their adherence to these diet quality indices.

In substitution analyses, replacing 5 grams per day of margarine or mayonnaise with an equivalent amount of olive oil was associated with an 8% to 14% lower risk of dementia-related death. However, substitutions for other vegetable oils or butter did not show significant associations.

The beneficial effects of olive oil on cognitive health are thought to be linked to its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E, and polyphenols, which have been shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, improve endothelial function, and enhance lipid metabolism. These mechanisms may collectively contribute to better vascular health and reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

The study’s strengths include its large sample size, long follow-up period, and the inclusion of genetic data for a subset of participants. These factors allowed for robust analyses and adjustments for potential confounders. However, the study also has limitations. As an observational study, it cannot establish causality. Additionally, the study population was predominantly non-Hispanic White health professionals, which may limit the generalisability of the findings to more diverse populations. The inability to differentiate among various types of olive oil, each with different bioactive compound content, is another noted limitation.

The findings of this study support current dietary recommendations advocating for the use of olive oil as a healthier fat option, not just for cardiovascular benefits but also for potential cognitive health advantages. Given the increasing rates of dementia-related mortality, these results highlight the importance of dietary choices in mitigating the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

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