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Study shows that olive oil reduces risk of dementia mortality

A newly published study shows that high olive oil consumption is associated with a significantly decreased risk for dementia-related mortality, regardless of overall diet quality.

A growing body of evidence has shown a link between the Mediterranean diet and cognitive function and lower risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, its association with dementia mortality was unknown.

Before you start drinking bottles of olive oil, I want to provide you with the study, while critically analyzing its methods and results.

vegetable salad with wheat bread on the side dementia olive oil
Photo by Dana Tentis on

Olive oil and dementia mortality paper

In a paper published on 1 May 2024 in the respected JAMA Network Open, Anne-Julie Tessier, RD, PhD, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, and colleagues analyzed data on over 92,000 participants (66% women; mean age, 56 years) in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS) who were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer at baseline.

Both studies were conducted between 1990 and 2018, with olive oil intake assessed every 4 years using a food frequency questionnaire. Dementia-related mortality was ascertained from death records.

Here are the key results:

  • Consuming at least 7 g of olive oil a day — about half a tablespoon in non-metric terms — was linked to a 28% lower risk for dementia-related death.
  • Replacing one teaspoon of margarine and mayonnaise with the equivalent amount of olive oil was associated with an 8%-14% lower risk for dementia-related mortality.
  • For women, each 5 g increment in olive oil consumption reduced the risk of death from dementia by about 12%.

The researchers concluded:

In US adults, higher olive oil intake was associated with a lower risk of dementia-related mortality, irrespective of diet quality. Beyond heart health, the findings extend the current dietary recommendations of choosing olive oil and other vegetable oils for cognitive-related health.


Before you start swallowing spoonfuls of olive oil to reduce your risk of death from dementia, let’s take a look at this study. First, the differences between the groups that consumed olive oil and those that did not were fairly small. But it was statistically significant.

Second, the groups that participated in this study were nurses and healthcare professionals, who are significantly different from the USA’s general population. They are better educated, may have better diets, and may have a different sense of what is healthy and what is not.

Why does olive oil have this effect? Because there may be components of olive oil that can cross the blood-brain barrier and may have a direct effect on the brain. On the other hand, olive oil consumption may have an effect on CVD which then has an indirect effect on the brain.

We also don’t have information from this study on whether these amounts of olive oil may be linked to a lower risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.


Michael Simpson

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