Adding This Delicious Staple to Your Diet Could Lower Your Risk of Dying from Dementia by 28%, According to New Research

Woman making food in the kitchen to lower risk of dementia

There are plenty of foods that have protective benefits for our health, from leafy greens that can increase longevity to walnuts for overall brain health. But if your doctor has told you that you are prone to developing dementia, or if you simply want to head off complications from dementia at the pass, look to this (surprisingly tasty!) food staple that you can add to your diet, confirmed through findings from a recent study.

What Is Dementia?

Neurologist Dr. Shae Datta, MD, Co-Director, NYU Langone Concussion Center, says that dementia is “a noticeable deterioration in mental ability that affects problem-solving, loss of normal reasoning and thinking abilities.”

Dr. Datta goes on to explain that the clinical aspects of dementia are typically divided into two categories: cognitive and non-cognitive symptoms.

“Memory impairments are typical of most forms of dementia, although language and inability to carry out daily activities of issues are also common first signs,” she says. “Non-cognitive symptoms is an unsuitable umbrella word for a range of issues that include mood disorders, psychotic symptoms and a variety of other behavioral alterations.”

Dr. Lisa Billars, MD, chief of neurology at Kaiser Permanente in Atlanta, further explains that dementia includes progressive symptoms that occur when the brain’s signaling pathways degenerate and the cell-to-cell communication system within the brain does not work efficiently.

“That interference can be due to many different conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia and Lewy body dementia, among others,” she says.

Related: Forgetting These 4 Things Could Be an Early Sign of Dementia, According to a Neurologist and Dementia Consultant

What Could Cause Someone to Die from Dementia?

Dr. Billars points out that dementia itself does not generally cause death. “But in its later stages, dementia can cause weakness to the point that other issues can occur with greater frequency, including infections like pneumonia, or falls,” she says. The elderly are most often affected by these secondary causes of death as a result of neurodegenerative dementias.

This Staple Could Lower Your Risk of Dying from Dementia, Research Explains

Adding one delicious staple to your diet could lower your risk of dying from dementia by 28%. In a May 2024 study, experts discovered a clear link between olive oil intake and reduced dementia-related mortality risk. Dr. Datta explains that according to the study, having a diet that includes ingesting more than 7 grams of olive oil daily is linked to a lower risk of dementia, especially if one’s diet also consists of nutritious foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes. And although these foods can boost results, Dr. Billars says that the study demonstrated that regardless of other foods a person is eating, there is a benefit from daily consumption of olive oil.

This is in line with the Mediterranean diet, which, as Dr. Billars says, doctors have known for some time holds greater health benefits, including reducing the risk of dementia. Olive oil, namely extra virgin olive oil, which has more favorable benefits, is a staple of Mediterranean diets.

“Most neurologists are excited about this study, as it is likely easier for patients to adhere to than a more regimented, specific diet,” Dr. Billars explains. “It is important for people to know that no matter how they have been eating for most of their lives, they likely will have some benefit to improving their eating habits going forward.”

Related: This Super Common Issue Could Increase Your Dementia Risk, According to Neurologists—Here’s How to Prevent It

What is it about olive oil that decreases the risk of dementia-related death?

“Olive oil contains a favorable ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 to omega-9 fatty acids, as well as unsaturated fat and antioxidants,” Dr. Billars says. “Extra virgin olive oil is processed in a way that preserves these compounds and is generally favored for those health benefits. These substances are critical for brain cell and blood vessel health.”

Dr. Billars adds that if brain cells are healthy, then they are able to efficiently send and receive the electrochemical signals that allow our brains to function normally. “In people with dementia, the brain cells are less likely to send the electrochemical signals efficiently, resulting in memory loss and other cognitive symptoms,” she says.

Related: How Much Does Sleep Actually Impact Dementia Risk? Brain Health Experts Explain

Other Foods to Help

Are there any other foods that can reduce the risk of dementia-related death?

Highlighting brain-benefitting foods like vegetables (particularly leafy greens), fruits (with a preference for berries over other fruits), healthy grains, beans, nuts and one or more weekly portions of fish, Dr. Datta says that these foods can reduce dementia risk in addition to olive oil. She notes that a healthy diet that boosts brain health also restricts cheese, fast food, fried or red meat, desserts and butter or margarine.

To cover all your bases, look to the Mediterranean diet.

“We have known for some time that the Mediterranean diet is associated with decreased risk of dementia,” Dr. Billars says. “Mediterranean diets can, of course, vary a bit, but generally consist of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains and some seafood. The use of olive oil in cooking is usually a staple as well. A Mediterranean diet contains minimal if any dairy and very low to no intake of meat and ultra-processed foods.”

Next up, discover the number one habit to reduce dementia risk.

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