Even a small amount every day reduced the odds of dying with dementia by 28 percent, a new study has found.

Need another reason to reach for olive oil when you cook? A new study suggests that having just a little bit each day might help reduce your chances of dying with dementia.

Scientists examined data collected over almost three decades on about 93,000 middle-aged adults. At the start of the study, participants were 56 years old on average and had no history of cardiovascular disease, a major risk factor for dementia.

Every four years, participants completed dietary questionnaires detailing what foods they typically ate and indicating how often they consumed olive oil: no more than once a month; up to 4.5 grams (g), or 1 teaspoon (tsp) daily; between 4.5 and 7 g (1.5 tsp) daily; or more than 7 g daily.

Compared with people who rarely if ever consumed olive oil, those who got at least 7 g a day were 28 percent less likely to die of dementia-related causes by the end of the study, according to results published in JAMA Network Open.

The study also found that replacing 1 daily tsp of margarine or mayonnaise with olive oil was associated with up to a 14 percent lower risk of dying from dementia-related causes.

“Typically, people who use olive oil for cooking or as a dressing have an overall better quality of their diet, but interestingly, we found there to be an association [between olive oil intake and reduced risk of dementia-related death] regardless of this factor,” says lead study author Anne-Julie Tessier, PhD, RD, a research associate in nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.



People in the Study Died From a Number of Dementia-Related Causes

A total of 4,571 people who died during the study had fatalities related to dementia based on a physician review of medical records, autopsy reports, or death certificates.

People with dementia can die from a variety of causes including infections, falls, heart disease, certain cancers, or poor nutrition as their illness leads them to stop eating much, says Philip Gorelick, MD, MPH, a neurologist at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, who wasn’t involved in the new study.

The study wasn’t designed to prove whether or how olive oil consumption might directly impact the chances of developing or dying from dementia but uncovers an association.

“Olive oil may help to maintain brain health and other systemic organ health such as the heart and vascular systems,” Dr. Gorelick notes. “By keeping the brain and systemic organs healthy, dementia may be prevented, and the patient will not succumb to dementia-related causes of death, such as infections, falls, and heart disease.”

Olive Oil Is a Natural for Salads and Sautéeing

The best way to add olive oil to your diet is by looking for ways to prepare healthy foods, rather than using it for fried foods and sweets, says Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, an emeritus professor of nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, who wasn’t involved in the new study.

“There are healthy ways to eat olive oil, and I recommend those which include using it for salads and lightly sautéing vegetables and lean protein foods,” Dr. Kris-Etherton says. “The greatest benefits of olive oil consumption on lowering dementia risk were seen in participants consuming the most olive oil and eating the best diets.”

SOURCE: Everyday Health