How Extra Virgin Olive Oil Improves Brain and Heart Health

We all know maintaining adequate nutrition plays a significant role in keeping us healthy. For years, the Mediterranean diet and extra virgin olive oil have shown to be a sustainable option with many cognitive health benefits.

Let’s take a deeper look …

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) and Heart Health

Interactions between nutrition and the aging brain are many and complex, but there are 3 main features researchers focus on. They include reduced blood flow, mitochondrial dysfunction (MD), and inflammation. Reduced blood flow is thought to be related to atherosclerosis and the formation of arterial plaques. Mitochondrial dysfunction is a result of an accumulation of reactive oxygen species in the brain, which controls cell signaling and may damage DHA and RNA. Inflammation is generally considered a natural part of aging.

A recent review by Petersson and Philippou (2016) found, “1 of 5 RCTs examined the association between the Mediterranean diet and cognitive impairment, and found that 6.5 y of adherence to the Mediterranean diet enriched with extra-virgin olive oil (MedDiet+EVOO) resulted in a 66% (OR: 0.34; 95% CI: 0.12, 0.97) reduced risk of MCI (mild cognitive impairment) compared with adherence to a low fat diet”. This means that more than half of the subjects had reduced the risk of declined mental function when they followed a Mediterranean diet that contained extra virgin olive oil.

Additionally, a recent RCT (randomized control trial) evaluated supplementation with extra virgin olive oil on the Mediterranean diet. Results showed, “Significant risk reduction of primary CVD (Cardiovascular Disease) by 30% after a median follow-up of 4.8 y, mainly due to decreased stroke risk”. Stroke and vascular factors in midlife are believed to impact cognitive decline with age. This finding shows the benefits the Mediterranean diet and extra virgin olive oil have on cognition, brain morphology, and function.

So, What’s Next?

Shifting your entire diet may seem intimidating at first. But, taking it micro-steps is a better way to see that it’s doable. It’ll also help you stick to your goal. As we discussed, the Mediterranean diet is known for being rich in extra virgin olive oil. And this simple piece is a great place to start. 

Extra virgin olive oil can be used to cook, bake, or even finish a dish. It makes a great Salad Dressing and is perfect to add to dips, sauces, and spreads!

If you are unsure about how to incorporate extra virgin olive oil into your diet, check out blog. You’ll find information on the Health Benefits of extra virgin olive oil, recipes, and much more!

Written by Mridini Chandrasekaran
Reviewed by Kelly Powers, MA, RDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who takes a holistic approach to nutrition and health. Kelly is a recipe developer with a food blog highlighting whole foods, simple recipes, and her life in San Francisco. She’s the creator of 52 Weeks, a weekly meal plan program that helps users get back in the kitchen and feed themselves well. Kelly is also a co-founder of Olivaio.