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Protection Against Cognitive Decline and the Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I’m sure that many of you are familiar with dementia. For those who aren’t, it's a collective term that describes symptoms of cognitive decline such as forgetfulness and impairment in memory and thinking. Alzheimer’s, a type of dementia, is one of the leading causes of death among older adults.

How is mentioning dementia relevant to extra virgin olive oil? 

Based on the body of evidence of countless studies, adherence to a Mediterranean diet, and its association with dementia seems to protect against cognitive decline. These protective properties stem from micronutrients and antioxidants that can be obtained from fruits and vegetables. Monounsaturated fats and polyphenols of extra virgin olive oil seem to also play a large role in the prevention of cognitive decline and dementia as well (1).

Based on a randomized predimed-navarra trial following 285 participants (all of whom were at high vascular risk) for 6.5 years through nutritional intervention, found that a diet with extra virgin olive oil resulted in better performance in fluency and memory tasks in comparison to the control diet. Participants were divided into 3 groups one of which administered a low-fat control diet while the other two were provided either a Mediterranean diet consuming 1 liter of extra virgin olive oil per week or 30 grams of mixed nuts a day. Results indicated that a Mediterranean diet rich in extra virgin olive oil resulted in better cognitive function than with a control diet that consisted of low-fat (2). The group that ate 30 grams of nuts a day did not differ from the control group that had a low-fat diet. The results state that a Mediterranean diet that consisted of 1 liter of olive oil per week led to less cognitive impairment than the control group. Those assigned to the Mediterranean diet with extra virgin olive oil had better cognitive function and less mild cognitive impairment based on measurements of cognitive performance and status than those on the low-fat control diet.

The Mediterranean diet and consumption of extra virgin olive oil in relation to cognitive impairment was also supported by a study in Barcelona, Spain, which followed 447 cognitively healthy volunteers (3). The study provided evidence to suggest that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil or nuts improves cognitive functions of older populations as opposed to reduced dietary fats.

Based on these two studies, a reduction in dietary fats does not seem to benefit cognitive health. It’s actually quite the opposite. Extra virgin olive oil seems to play a large role in the Mediterranean diet and for personal health as a whole. Both studies clearly state that the consumption of 1 litre of extra virgin olive oil per week resulted in better cognitive function as opposed to their reduced-fat control diet.

Hopefully you enjoyed today’s blog. If a Mediterranean dish sounds good right about now. Here are some dishes that you might enjoy. 

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

Eggplant Parmesan

Like this? Check out our other posts on Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) Health Benefits on Cognitive Function in Older Adults

Written by Jhun Kendrick Papio
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.