New Research: Taking a Spoonful of This Per Day Could Reduce Risk of Death from Dementia

Updated: May 07, 2024

This beloved condiment has been shown to help the body run longer—now, new research suggests it could keep your brain in young shape, too.

Remember the days before we used olive oil, and instead primarily cooked in ingredients like butter, margarine, and vegetable oil? Thanks to popular influences like doctor talk shows, cooking TV, and Blue Zones research, we now understand that olive oil—rich in healthy fats and antioxidants—has been shown to reduce inflammation, protect the heart, and even help keep the skin stay looking young both when ingested and applied topically.

Research in 2023 found that this prized pantry staple seemed to provide another major benefit: Olive oil may fight dementia. Now a new study has taken that finding one step farther with another delicious discovery.

According to research published May 6, 2024 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Open Network, olive oil can add another achievement to its impressive list of benefits: It may serve as protective element against dying from dementia.

For the study, doctors the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, in partnership with researchers in China, analyzed data from two long-term studies on diet and health that began in 1990. They combined the statistics from 92,000 participants, with an average age of 56 at the study’s beginning, who noted their average consumption of olive oil from “Rarely” to greater than seven grams per day, which translates to one-and-three-quarter teaspoons.

Pouring olive oil onto a spoonlimpido/getty images

The researchers compared how the participants’ consumption of olive oil over nearly 30 years affected their likelihood of dying from dementia-related diseases. Olive oil intake was assessed every four years via a questionnaire that ascertained a range of eating habits.

Participants who reported frequently using olive oil for uses such as cooking, salads, or dipping bread experienced the lowest rates of death from all types of dementia. Those who consumed at least seven grams per day were 28% less likely to die from dementia-related causes than those who never or rarely used olive oil.

In particular, the researchers say, replacing five grams per day of margarine and mayonnaise with the equivalent amount of olive oil was associated with an 8% to 14% lower risk of dementia mortality.

The protective factor appeared to show particular strength among women. The results were consistent even if participants were more genetically prone to developing dementia, and the effect remained strong regardless of other dietary choices.

Recently, some experts have been noting that what’s good for the heart also appears to show benefit for the brain. The researchers for this study echo that: “Beyond heart health, the findings extend the current dietary recommendations of choosing olive oil and other vegetable oils for cognitive-related health,” they commented.