Does Extra Virgin Olive Oil Really Reduce Your Dementia Risk?

Bread and olive oil
Larry Dale Gordon/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Want to reduce your dementia risk? Consider starting by changing what kind of oil you use. Seriously? Yes.

Several research studies have cited olive oil as being correlated with improved cognition and brain health. These include:

A study with mice demonstrated that administration of extra virgin olive oil cleared extra beta-amyloid protein deposits in their brains. A build-up of these protein deposits is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease.

Another study conducted with mice found that the mice whose diets consisted of high levels of oleuropein aglycone, a main component of extra virgin olive oil, generated new cells in the hippocampus and improved the memory of the mice who had been engineered to develop Alzheimer's disease-like symptoms. The hippocampus is an area of the brain where atrophy is typically seen in Alzheimer's disease.

A third study found that, after administration of oleuropein aglycone, mice with Alzheimer's disease demonstrated improved brain health, a decreased level of (unwanted) beta-amyloid protein deposits and improved memory functioning.

What about Research with Humans?

More importantly, what about in people? I'll highlight one here, but multiple studies have been conducted to determine how extra virgin olive oil affects dementia risk in humans.

In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging, two different versions of the Mediterranean diet- which has been strongly correlated with a decreased risk of dementia- were provided for participants.

One group of participants followed a Mediterranean diet that was supplemented with mixed nuts and the other group of participants followed the same Mediterranean diet that was supplemented with extra virgin olive oil instead. (Nuts have been correlated with a decreased dementia risk, but one type in particular has been more strongly connected to improved brain health and functioning.


At the end of the 6.5 years of the study, the participants who consumed the Mediterranean diet plus the olive oil demonstrated better cognitive performance in all cognitive areas tested, most notably in memory and fluency. This group also demonstrated a lower risk for the development of mild cognitive impairment, a condition that sometimes progresses to dementia.

Other Benefits of Olive Oil

Several other studies have identified many other health benefits correlated with consumption of olive oil, including a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure problems, metabolic syndrome and obesity as well as improved cardiovascular health.


ACS Chemical Neuroscience. 2013 Jun 19;4(6):973-82. Olive-oil-derived oleocanthal enhances β-amyloid clearance as a potential neuroprotective mechanism against Alzheimer's disease: in vitro and in vivo studies.

Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging. 2013;17(6):544-52. Virgin olive oil supplementation and long-term cognition: the PREDIMED-NAVARRA randomized, trial.

Neuro-degenerative Diseases. 2014;13(2-3):131-4. Employing Alzheimer disease animal models for translational research: focus on dietary components.

Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases: NMCD. 2010 May;20(4):284-94. Olive oil and health: summary of the II international conference on olive oil and health consensus report, Jaén and Córdoba (Spain) 2008.

PLoS One. 2013; 8(8): The Polyphenol Oleuropein Aglycone Protects TgCRND8 Mice against Aß Plaque Pathology.

Continue Reading