Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

Dementia: Olive oil could help protect brain health, according to new study

Adapted from the original research and an article by Robby Berman in Medical News Today, August 2, 2023

Consuming half a tablespoon of olive oil per day could substantially lower your risk of dying from dementia, a new study shows.

According to a presentation on July 24 at the NUTRITION 2023 conference in Boston, the study found that people who consumed half a tablespoon or more of olive oil daily had a 25% reduced risk of dying from dementia compared to people who did not consume olive oil.

What’s more, higher olive oil intake was linked to greater brain benefits. “We found a clear linear dose-response association between higher daily olive oil intake and lower risk of fatal dementia,” said presenter Anne-Julie Tessier, RD (registered dietician), PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

This US-based study is the first to investigate the relationship between diet and dementia-related death. The investigators analyzed the health records from 1990 to 2018 of more than 90,000 people in the US who did not have cardiovascular disease or cancer at the start of the study. During the study’s 28 years of follow-up, 4,749 participants died from dementia.

Replacing even a single teaspoon of margarine or commercial mayonnaise with olive oil was also associated with a 5-12% reduced risk of dying from dementia, according to the research team. These benefits were not seen with other vegetable oils.

The link between higher olive oil intake and lower risk of dying of dementia was observed regardless of the overall quality of people’s diets. This may indicate that components of olive oil provide unique benefits for brain health.

“Some antioxidant compounds in olive oil can cross the blood-brain barrier, potentially having a direct effect on the brain,” said Dr. Tessier. “It is also possible that olive oil has an indirect effect on brain health by benefiting cardiovascular health.” She noted that only a few individuals in the study consumed more than 15 mg (about 1 tablespoon) of olive oil daily.

A body of previous research has established an association between olive oil intake and a lower risk of heart disease, and incorporating olive oil as part of the Mediterranean diet has also been shown to help protect against cognitive decline.

Dr. Tessier reflected on the characteristics of olive oil that may confer its effects on the brain: “Olive oil may play a beneficial role in cognitive health through its rich content in monounsaturated fatty acids, which may promote neurogenesis [growth of brain cells]. It also contains vitamin E and polyphenols that have antioxidant activity.”

The research team advised that an observational study such as this is only able to identify an association and does not prove that olive oil is the cause of the reduced risk of dying from dementia. Randomized, controlled trials are needed to confirm the study’s findings and to help establish the optimal quantity of olive oil to consume in order to experience the most benefits.

Reference: Tessier JA, Yuan C, Cortese M, et al. Olive oil and fatal dementia risk in two large prospective US cohort studies. Poster presented at NUTRITION 2023 conference, Fairfax, VA, July 24, 2023.

Brekky Piadina

My wife and I enjoyed a particularly satisfying breakfast recently at the charming D.O.C. Espresso in Melbourne’s Little Italy. Piadina, originally a specialty of Emilia-Romagna, is a kind of flatbread. If you cannot find it, substitute Middle Eastern flatbread or fresh tortillas. Feel free to create your own piadina fillings—the combination of cream cheese, smoked salmon, red onion, and capers is especially good.


  • 2 piadinas or other flatbreads (see above)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, trimmed and diced
  • 2 large eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ounces asiago cheese, grated
  • Handful of arugula (optional)


Step 1

Heat the oven to warm (175°F if your oven doesn’t have a warm setting). Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. One at a time, gently warm the piadinas, turning once with tongs. When hot, enclose the piadinas in a square of aluminum foil and place in the oven to keep warm.

Step 2

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the mushrooms to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté the mushrooms until they begin to brown and have given up their liquid. Remove from the skillet and keep warm. Add another tablespoon or two of olive oil to the skillet. Thoroughly whisk the eggs, then pour into the skillet. Using a rubber spatula, scramble the eggs until they are barely cooked. Season with salt and pepper.

Step 3

Place each warm piadina on a dinner plate. Top each with half the mushrooms, eggs, cheese, and arugula, if using. Drizzle with additional olive oil, if desired. Fold in half and serve immediately.

Serves 2 generously

Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Two Dipping Sauces

Delicious all year round, this is a crunchy, flavorful vegetarian version of the Asian classic. For a more traditional filling, start with a row of boiled shrimp and sautéed slices of pork belly. When serving, dip the rolls in the vinaigrette first—a great “dressing” for the veggies wrapped inside—then the peanut sauce, for a second jolt of flavor. Rice paper wrappers come dried, so you can store them in your pantry.


For the vinaigrette dipping sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon chili sauce, such as Sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce

For the peanut dipping sauce:

  • 2/3 cup crunchy-style peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons chili-garlic paste or hot sauce
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • Up to 1/3 cup water, as needed

For the summer rolls:

  • Small head of Boston or Bibb lettuce, separated into leaves, rinsed, and patted dry
  • 1 large cucumber, cut into matchsticks
  • 3 large scallions, trimmed and cut into 3-inch lengths
  • 2 large carrots, scrubbed and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 cup bean sprouts or enoki mushrooms
  • 1 cup each fresh mint leaves, Italian or Thai basil, and cilantro
  • 2 serrano or jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded, and cut into thin rounds
  • 16 round rice paper wrappers, about 9 inches in diameter


Step 1

Prepare the two dipping sauces by whisking their respective ingredients in two small bowls. For the peanut sauce, blend the peanut butter with the olive oil to soften it, then add the rest of the ingredients; add the water, as needed, to thin the sauce to a pourable consistency. Set both aside.

Step 2

Prep all the vegetables and then fill a 9- or 10-inch pie plate with warm water. Slide one rice paper wrapper into the water and swirl it around briefly, only about 3 to 5 seconds—it should still feel slightly firm as you take it out of the water. Transfer it to a plate or a cutting board and, starting with a lettuce leaf, layer on your fillings one-third down from the top of the wrapper. Fold the top of the wrapper over the fillings, fold in the sides, and then roll up the rest of the wrapper.

Step 3

Transfer it to a serving plate and continue to make the rest of the rolls. Serve with the dipping sauces.

Serves 4 as a main dish, 8 as an appetizer

The Olive Oil Hunter News #139

Baked “Fried Zucchini” Recipe, For Your Best Health: The Benefits of Olive Oil and Alzheimer’s

It’s hard to escape all the talk about artificial intelligence (AI), and it has its proponents and its detractors, but a recent study showed how it can be a superhighway to important health advances. A group of international scientists used it to suss out which phytochemicals, specifically types of polyphenols, contribute to one of the most important benefits of olive oil: fighting Alzheimer’s disease. Though early in the game, the research is welcome news. One thing that there’s no question about is the exquisite taste of fresh-pressed olive oil (a sign of high polyphenol content), and this recipe for baked “fried zucchini” is a wonderful way to enjoy it. 

Baked “Fried Zucchini”

  • Baked Fried Zucchini Baked “Fried Zucchini”

    Traditional friend zucchini is such a popular appetizer, especially when dipped in zesty tomato sauce, but it’s almost always more breading and bland oil than a healthful way to eat your vegetables. My baked version offers all the taste you’re looking for in a way that elevates the zucs. For a quick and easy homemade sauce, see The Oil Olive Hunter Newsletter #137


    • 2 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour, more as needed
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 cup freshly grated Reggiano-Parmigiano cheese
    • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 


    Step 1

    Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper. Combine the zucchini slices and olive oil in a large bowl and toss to coat well.

    Step 2

    Set up three shallow bowls or pie plates. Put the flour in one, whisk the eggs in another, and in the third, stir together the cheese, panko, basil, salt, and pepper. One at a time, dust the zucchini slices with flour, dip them in the egg, then in the cheese mixture, and place them on the sheet pan. 

    Step 3

    Bake until the coating turns brown and crispy, for 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.  

    Yields 4 servings

Best Health: The Mediterranean Diet: Reversing Metabolic Syndrome After Heart Disease

For Your Best Health

The Benefits of Olive Oil and Alzheimer’s

The Study: “Alzheimer’s disease: using gene/protein network machine learning for molecule discovery in olive oil,” Human Genomics, July 2023.

The Summary: An international group of researchers, including scientists from Yale and Temple universities, used artificial intelligence to uncover the promising potential of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) in combating Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

EVOO’s neuroprotective effects have garnered a lot of attention in recent years. The Mediterranean diet, rich in EVOO, has been associated with a reduced risk of dementia and cognitive decline. To go the next step, this research team was able to create a unique algorithm by integrating AI, chemistry, and omics (an emerging multidisciplinary field that includes genomics and epigenomics) to identify which specific bioactive compounds in EVOO could contribute to the treatment and prevention of AD and analyze how they interact with the complex pathways involved in AD. Most interesting, they did this by comparing them to the actions of FDA-approved drugs for AD. 

The study adds to the growing evidence that the Mediterranean diet, rich in EVOO, supports brain health, mitigates dementia and cognitive decline, and can potentially provide a basis for consideration in future clinical studies to treat not only Alzheimer’s but other chronic conditions as well.

From the Abstract: “Previous studies suggest that extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) may be helpful in preventing cognitive decline. Here, we present a network machine learning method for identifying bioactive phytochemicals in EVOO with the highest potential to impact the protein network linked to the development and progression of the AD…The calibrated machine learning algorithm was used to predict the likelihood of existing drugs and known EVOO phytochemicals to be similar in action to the drugs impacting AD protein networks. These analyses identified the following ten EVOO phytochemicals with the highest likelihood of being active against AD: quercetin, genistein, luteolin, palmitoleate, stearic acid, apigenin, epicatechin, kaempferol, squalene, and daidzein (in the order from the highest to the lowest likelihood).” 

From the Study’s Results: “Our model allowed us to predict with 70.3% ± 2.6% accuracy which previously FDA-approved drugs were in phase 3 and 4 trials for AD specifically versus all other FDA-approved drugs not in AD trials. The resulting 64 models were used for scoring the EVOO phytochemicals; the probabilities of these phytochemicals predicted to be similar to the drugs in FDA phase 3 and 4 trials were then averaged to produce the final consensus prediction. EVOO phytochemicals with the highest probability of being like compounds in FDA trials were considered most likely to be biologically active.”

From the Study’s Conclusion: “It is well known that diet and lifestyle influence health. Machine learning is a novel, cost-effective way to evaluate the potential health benefits of individual EVOO phytochemicals. The present study provides an approach that brings together artificial intelligence, analytical chemistry, and omics studies to explore the interactions of phytochemicals with pathways involved in a disease state, information that can lead to the identification of novel therapeutic entities in a natural product (that contains a heterogeneous mixture of phytochemicals). The analyses identified several individual EVOO phytochemicals that have a high likelihood of interfering with AD, a few of which (e.g., quercetin, genistein) have shown promising effects on AD pathogenesis. Others (e.g., luteolin) are worthy of further in vitro and in vivo study. It is only through the conduct of such studies [that] the predictive utility of our machine learning approach [will] be validated. While the results of the present study shed light on how EVOO may help treat or prevent AD, the same approach may be applied to identify EVOO phytochemicals (or other food constituents) that treat other diseases, such as hypertension or dyslipidemia.”

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