Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

The Olive Oil Hunter News #138

Very Vanilla Cupcakes Recipe, Spotlight on EVOO, Better Cupcake Liners, The Right Video Games for Brain Power Based on Your Age, and More Reasons to Exercise

As the saying goes, good things come in small packages, and these cupcakes are a perfect example. They’re simple to make and delicious to eat! Munch on one as you read about two new and important studies. The first is how to train your brain with video games—it all comes down to your age! And the other offers good advice for all ages: Exercise to avoid atrial fibrillation, the most common heart arrhythmia and one that greatly increases the risk for stroke.

Very Vanilla Cupcakes

  • Vanilla Cupcakes Very Vanilla Cupcakes

    These cupcakes are heady with a double dose of vanilla … in the sweet vanilla cake and the rich and creamy frosting, enhanced with just a hint of almond extract. Use a small offset spatula to mound the frosting in a cone shape, or use a pastry bag and small star tip for a fanciful effect. Either way, they’re luscious!


    For the cupcakes:

    • 2 cups pastry flour 
    • 1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour 
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt
    • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 extra-large eggs 
    • 3/4 cup sugar 
    • 1 cup Greek yogurt 
    • 1/2 cup almond milk
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla or the seeds of a vanilla bean

    For the frosting:

    • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature 
    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/4 cup milk, your choice of dairy or non-dairy
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
    • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, more as needed


    Step 1

    For the cupcakes: Preheat your oven to 375°F. Add all the dry ingredients to a large bowl and whisk thoroughly. Add all the wet ingredients and whisk thoroughly again until the flour is fully incorporated. Use a large ice cream scoop to fill a 12-cup muffin tin. Bake until the tip of a sharp knife inserted in two or three of cupcakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let them cool completely.

    Step 2

    While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting: In a large bowl or stand mixer, whisk together the mascarpone, olive oil, milk, and extracts until smooth. Beat in the sugar, a cup at a time, until the frosting reaches a spreadable consistency, adding more in 1/4 cup increments if needed. Chill briefly.

    Step 3

    When the cupcakes are completely cool, spread on the frosting.

    Yields 12 servings

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Burrata

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Reach for EVOO Instead of Butter

Who doesn’t love a cupcake? And when you replace butter with extra virgin olive oil, you can indulge without the guilt. While it takes experimentation with EVOO to get the mouthfeel of butter when a recipe involves creaming it, you won’t notice the difference when melted butter is called for. And, of course, swapping olive oil anytime a vegetable oil is called for is a no-brainer!

Quick Kitchen Nugget: Rinsing Lettuce

Quick Kitchen Nugget

Cupcake Liners

Besides conserving your olive oil for recipes themselves, I like to use tall paper liners instead of coating your muffin tin cups with EVOO. Often called tulip liners because of their shape, they let you not only avoid spillovers but also mound your batter above the tin’s natural rim, so you can bake taller cupcakes (and muffins) in a regular-size pan. I also prefer tulip liners to the traditional short, fluted ones for the same reasons … and because they’re more festive. Look for those made of unbleached parchment paper.

For Your Best Health: Imperfect calorie counting may be good enough

For Your Best Health

The Right Video Games for Brain Power Vary with Your Age

As we age, our mental abilities tend to decrease, particularly the ability to remember a number of new things at once, otherwise known as our working memory—it’s thought to peak between the ages of 20 and 30. Research has shown that the way we hold information in the brain changes as we get older, and this prompted scientists at the University of York in the UK to look at whether the impacts of particular types of mental stimulation, such as gaming, also had altered effects, depending on age. The study included older and younger adults playing the same digital games that they do on their own. This resulted in a wide range of games that were tested alongside a digital experiment that required participants to memorize images while being distracted.

Fiona McNab, PhD, of York’s Department of Psychology, says: “A lot of research has focused on action games, as it is thought that reacting quickly, keeping track of targets, and so on helps attention and memory, but our new analysis shows that the action elements do not seem to offer significant benefits to younger adults. It instead seems to be the strategy elements of the games—planning and problem solving, for example—that stimulate better memory and attention in young people. We don’t see this same effect in older adults, however, and more research is needed to understand why this is. We can’t yet rule out that the strategy games played by older people are not as difficult as the games played by younger people and that the level of challenge might be important in memory improvement.”

When it came to brain boosts for adults ages 60 and over, the researchers found that those who played digital puzzle games showed the same memory abilities as people in their 20s and a greater ability to ignore irrelevant distractions, but older adults who played strategy games did not show the same improvements in memory or concentration as their younger counterparts.

Joe Cutting, PhD, of York’s Department of Computer Science, details: “Generally people have a good ability to ignore irrelevant distractions, something we call ‘encoding distraction.’ We would expect for example that a person could memorize the name of a street [while] being distracted by a child or a dog, but this ability does decline as we age. Puzzle games for older people had this surprising ability to support mental capabilities to the extent that memory and concentration levels were the same as a 20-year-old’s who had not played puzzle games.”

Older people who only played strategy games were more likely to forget elements committed to memory while being distracted whereas young people were less successful at focusing attention if they played only puzzle games.

The researchers suggest future studies look at why there is a difference between impacts of types of games depending on the age of a player and whether this is connected to how the brain stores information as people age.

The study, “Higher working memory capacity and distraction-resistance associated with strategy (not action) game playing in younger adults, but puzzle game playing in older adults,” was published in the journal Heliyon.

Fitness Flash: Exercise: Exercising to Burn Fat

Fitness Flash

More Reasons to Exercise

According to research done at the National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University in Taipei, Taiwan, and presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2023, physical fitness is linked with a lower likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation and stroke. Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disorder, affecting more than 40 million people worldwide, and having it increases the risk of stroke fivefold.  

The study included 15,450 people without atrial fibrillation who were referred for a treadmill test between 2003 and 2012. The average age was 55 years, and 59% were men. Fitness was assessed using the Bruce protocol, which asks participants to walk faster and at a steeper grade in successive three-minute stages. Fitness was calculated according to the rate of energy expenditure the participants achieved and expressed in metabolic equivalents (METs). Participants were divided into three fitness levels according to METs achieved during the treadmill test: low (less than 8.57 METs), medium (8.57 to 10.72), and high (more than 10.72).

Participants were followed for new-onset atrial fibrillation, stroke, myocardial infarction (heart attack), and death. The researchers analyzed the associations between fitness and atrial fibrillation, stroke, and major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE)—a composite of stroke, myocardial infarction, and death—after adjusting for factors that could influence the associations, including age, sex, cholesterol level, kidney function, prior stroke, hypertension, and medications.

During a median of 137 months of follow-up, 515 participants (3.3%) developed atrial fibrillation. Each one MET increase on the treadmill test was associated with an 8% lower risk of atrial fibrillation, 12% lower risk of stroke, and 14% lower risk of MACE.

Says study author Dr. Shih-Hsien Sung, “This was a large study with an objective measurement of fitness and more than 11 years of follow-up. The findings indicate that keeping fit may help prevent atrial fibrillation and stroke.”

Separate research, done at UW Medicine-Kaiser Permanente, found another reason to do all you can to protect against atrial fibrillation: Having it appears to heighten dementia risk. People with newly diagnosed atrial fibrillation had a 13% higher risk of developing dementia.

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #137

Savory 3-Cheese Stuffed Shells Recipe, Spotlight on Parmigiano-Reggiano, Plus Antioxidants to Help Ward Off Alzheimer’s and Making Up for Lost Sleep

Craving a hot and hearty pasta dish? My stuffed shells will surely satisfy, and they’re not as complicated to make as you might think. One essential ingredient is true Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and you may be surprised to learn that the parm you’ve been reaching for at the store isn’t the real thing! Here’s what you need to know, plus the details on two new studies, important for brain and heart health.

Savory 3-Cheese Stuffed Shells

  • Three Cheese Baked Stuffed Shells Savory 3-Cheese Stuffed Shells

    Move over, lasagna! This dish is a tasty way to get baked cheesy goodness without juggling long strips of pasta. I’m including a simple savory tomato sauce if you’d like to make your own (you can do this up to three days in advance), but a good quality store-bought one will make the prep quite fast.


    For the tomato sauce:

    • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/2 cup chopped onion
    • One 6-ounce can tomato paste
    • 1/2 cup red wine
    • 1 20-ounce can crushed tomatoes
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    • Pinch of sea salt

    For the shells:

    • 1 pound jumbo pasta shells
    • 2 teaspoons sea salt
    • 1 pound mozzarella, divided use 
    • 1 pound ricotta cheese
    • 2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided use
    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


    Step 1

    Make the sauce: Heat a large saucepan; when hot, add the olive oil, garlic, and onions, and then sauté until soft but not browned. Push the vegetables to the outside of the pan and add the tomato paste to the center; sauté the paste until it browns to release its flavors. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, then add the crushed tomatoes, sugar, oregano, and salt. Simmer for 20 minutes (or more) while you prepare the shells. 

    Step 2

    Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil and add the shells and the salt. Cook according to package directions for al dente (don’t overcook, as the shells will soften more in the oven). 

    Step 3

    While they’re boiling, line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat your oven to 375°F. Cut 12 ounces of the mozzarella into small cubes; shred the rest and set aside. Add the mozzarella cubes to a large bowl along with the ricotta, one cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, the olive oil, egg, oregano, nutmeg, and black pepper; mix thoroughly. 

    Step 4

    Drain the shells, place them on the prepared sheet pan, and use a small spoon to fill them with the cheese mixture. Lightly coat a large baking dish with olive oil and add half the sauce; use an offset spatula to spread it out evenly. Place the filled shells in the dish in rows and cover with the rest of the sauce. Sprinkle on the grated mozzarella and the rest of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese topping is thoroughly melted and slightly browned. 

    Yields 4-6 servings

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Burrata

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight


Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club members know about the tricks mass marketers use to sell inferior olive oils. Well, the same is true when it comes to Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, with the worst offenders being producers of containers of grated Parmesan—investigations have found that often a higher-than-stated percentage of their contents is actually cellulose, adding to avoid clumping. While Parmigiano-Reggiano can be costly, it doesn’t take a lot to fill a cup when grated, and you can grate a batch easily yourself, either by hand or with the grating blade of a food processor, and then keep it in the fridge for a week or more. 

While American-made Parmesan sold in blocks is real cheese, it isn’t necessarily made according to any of the strict guidelines—including a minimum of 12 months’ aging—established in the regions of Parma and Reggio in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna. For true Parmigiano-Reggiano, not only should the label say “made in” or “from” Italy, but the rind itself should be embossed with the words Parmigiano-Reggiano in a dot pattern, visible even on the smallest wedge you buy. Look for vacuum-sealed packages if buying pre-cut wedges—Costco is a great source for this—or shop at cheese stores experienced in the best storage practices to avoid getting a piece that’s dried out. 

Quick Kitchen Nugget: Rinsing Lettuce

Quick Kitchen Nugget

Using Parmigiano-Reggiano Rinds 

Make the most of your investment in real Parmigiano-Reggiano by saving and using the rinds—they have wonderful flavor and are completely natural. What’s more, you can store them in a freezer-safe container for a year and use them directly from the freezer to flavor stews, stocks, and sauces. Use 2 ounces of rind for every cup of liquid in a recipe in order to maximize flavor. While the essence of the rind will meld into other ingredients in your pot, the rind itself won’t disappear, so remove it before serving, just as you would a bay leaf (some fans will use a spoon to scrape off and gobble up the softened cheesy parts that are left on it).

For Your Best Health: Imperfect calorie counting may be good enough

For Your Best Health

Antioxidants to Help Ward Off Alzheimer’s

A new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease by C. Kathleen Dorey, PhD, of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, found that brain levels of dietary lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, and vitamin E in those with Alzheimer’s disease are half those in normal brains. 

“This study, for the first time, demonstrates deficits in important dietary antioxidants in Alzheimer’s brains,” says Dr. Dorey. “These results are consistent with large population studies that found risk for Alzheimer’s disease was significantly lower in those who ate diets rich in carotenoids, or had high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in their blood, or accumulated in their retina as macular pigment … Not only that, but we believe eating carotenoid-rich diets will help keep brains in top condition at all ages.”

The brain is vulnerable to cumulative oxidative damage, which can be prevented by antioxidants from a healthy diet. Carotenoids are powerful antioxidants that are commonly found in colorful plants. Lutein is especially abundant in kale and spinach, and zeaxanthin is highest in corn and orange peppers.   

Dr. Dorey and Neal E. Craft, of Craft Technologies in Wilson, North Carolina, first reported in 2004 that the brain selectively accumulated carotenoids such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Since then, researchers around the world have demonstrated better cognition in those with higher levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in their macular pigment and lower risk for dementia in those with highest levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in their diet or accumulated in their macular pigment. 

The Rush University Memory and Aging Project, for example, followed the diet and cognitive performance of more than 1,000 participants living in Chicago for more than a decade, assessing their intake of carotenoids, and found that those following the MIND diet with its high levels of antioxidant-rich fruits, nuts, vegetables, and fish, and lower levels of meat and sweets, had reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, higher cognitive performance before death, and less Alzheimer’s disease-related brain pathology. Moreover, those with the highest intake of total carotenoids or lutein/zeaxanthin over a decade had 50% lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease.  

Although studies had strongly suggested that carotenoids may protect the brain against damage contributing to Alzheimer’s disease, there had been no evidence that brain carotenoids correlated with the disease. The Dorey-Craft report in the June issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease has helped to show a clear connection.

This new evidence of selective carotenoid and tocopherol (vitamin E) deficiencies in the brains of subjects with Alzheimer’s disease adds further support to the growing evidence that a greater dietary intake of carotenoids may slow cognitive decline prior to—and possibly following—a diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease.

Research also has shown that the retina selectively accumulates lutein and zeaxanthin from the diet, forming visible yellow macular pigment that enhances vision and protects photoreceptors. By noninvasively measuring patients’ macular pigment optical density, researchers can estimate the concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin in the brain.

“Recent advances in new therapies for Alzheimer’s disease show exciting promise as an effective way to slow disease progression,” Dr. Dorey said. “I’d be thrilled if our data motivated people to keep their brains in optimum condition with a colorful diet with abundant carotenoids and regular exercise. Available studies suggest this may also reduce risk for dementia.” 

Fitness Flash: Exercise: Exercising to Burn Fat

Fitness Flash

Making Up for Lost Sleep: Not So Fast

A new study led by Penn State researchers and published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that we can’t truly make up for the effects of lost sleep during the week by sleeping in over the weekend: Heart health measures, including heart rate and blood pressure, worsen over the course of the week when sleep is restricted to five hours per night, and attempting to catch up on sleep over the weekend isn’t enough to return these measures to normal.

“Only 65% of adults in the U.S. regularly sleep the recommended seven hours per night, and there’s a lot of evidence suggesting that this lack of sleep is associated with cardiovascular disease in the long term,” explains study co-author Anne-Marie Chang, PhD, associate professor of biobehavioral health. “Our research reveals a potential mechanism for this longitudinal relationship, where enough successive hits to your cardiovascular health while you’re young could make your heart more prone to cardiovascular disease in the future.”

The team recruited 15 healthy men between the ages of 20 and 35 to participate in an 11-day inpatient sleep study. For the first three nights, the participants were allowed to sleep up to 10 hours per night to achieve a baseline sleep level. For the next five nights, the participants’ sleep was restricted to five hours per night, followed by two recovery nights, in which they were again allowed to sleep up to 10 hours per night. To evaluate the effects of this sleep regimen on cardiovascular health, the researchers measured the participants’ resting heart rates and blood pressure every two hours during the day.

Dr. Chang says that the team’s study is unique because it measured heart rate and blood pressure multiple times throughout the day for the duration of the study, which enabled the scientists to account for any effects that time of day might have on heart rate and blood pressure. For example, heart rate is naturally lower upon waking than later in the day, so measuring heart rate multiple times throughout the day can account for this difference.

Specifically, the average baseline heart rate was 69 BPM, while the average heart rate by the end of the study on the second day of recovery was nearly 78 BPM. Systolic blood pressure also increased by about 0.5 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) per day. The average baseline systolic blood pressure was 116 mmHg and was nearly 119.5 mmHg by the end of the recovery period.

“Both heart rate and systolic blood pressure increased with each successive day and did not return to baseline levels by the end of the recovery period,” says lead author and Penn State graduate student David Reichenberger. “So, despite having additional opportunity to rest, by the end of the weekend of the study, their cardiovascular systems still had not recovered.”

Dr. Chang noted that longer periods of sleep recovery may be necessary to recover from multiple, consecutive nights of sleep loss. “Sleep is a biological process, but it’s also a behavioral one and one that we often have a lot of control over,” she explains. “Not only does sleep affect our cardiovascular health, but it also affects our weight, our mental health, our ability to focus, and our ability to maintain healthy relationships with others, among many other things. As we learn more and more about the importance of sleep, and how it impacts everything in our lives, my hope is that it will become more of a focus for improving one’s health.”

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #135

Salade Niçoise Recipe, For Your Best Health: Lowering the Risk for Dementia with the Mediterranean Diet

The benefits of extra virgin olive oil as part of the acclaimed Mediterranean diet never cease to amaze me. Food lovers including members of the Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club appreciate the depth of flavor of EVOO and would love it even without all the health benefits. But it’s the very presence of powerful polyphenols that both give EVOO its taste and convey its benefits, along with its good-for-you unsaturated fats. To be able to share a new study on how the Mediterranean diet can help stave off dementia is very exciting for me. I know you’ll be fascinated by the findings. I’m also sharing a quintessential Mediterranean recipe—salade Niçoise, straight from Nice on the French Riviera, part of that country’s Mediterranean Sea shoreline. Enjoy!

Salade Niçoise

  • Salade Nicoise Salade Niçoise

    Few dishes symbolize the south of France like salade Niçoise. Although you may not think you like anchovies or capers, they do add to the layers of flavor without being obvious, so try them. You can also build on the basic ingredients to personalize the salad—sliced radishes, red onion, pimentos, and artichoke hearts are just a few of the popular additions. Need a picnic option? Turn this into the classic sandwich of Nice, the pan bagnat, by simply packing all the ingredients into a tranche of a baguette or a crusty whole wheat roll. 


    For the vinaigrette:

    • 1 tablespoons honey
    • 2  tablespoons balsamic vinegar of Modena 
    • 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper 
    • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
    • 6  tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

    For the salad:

    • 1 tablespoon fine salt
    • 1 pound red potatoes
    • 1 pound haricots verts or string beans, trimmed
    • 4 cups greens, any varieties 
    • 12 ounces freshly grilled tuna or 2 large cans tuna, drained
    • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
    • 4 hard-boiled eggs, halved
    • 1 cup Niçoise or other small black olives, pitted 
    • 8 anchovy fillets, drained
    • 2 tablespoons capers, drained 
    • Fleur de sel or grey coarse sea salt, to taste
    • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


    Step 1

    Make the vinaigrette: in a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the honey, balsamic, mustard, salt, pepper, and garlic. Add the oil and whisk continuously until the dressing is emulsified. Set aside.

    Step 2

    Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the fine salt. Add the potatoes and boil for 15 minutes, then add the beans and boil everything for another 3 minutes. Strain the vegetables and wait until cool enough to handle. If the potatoes are small, cut them in half; if large, into quarters.

    Step 3

    To assemble the salad, choose either one large platter or individual plates. Start with the lettuce, then arrange, in sections, the potatoes, green beans, tuna, tomatoes, eggs, olives, and anchovies, plus any other veggies you choose to add. Sprinkle on the capers and dress everything with the vinaigrette. Finish with the fleur de sel or coarse grey salt and pepper.

    Yields 4 servings

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

For Your Best Health

Lowering the Risk for Dementia with the Mediterranean Diet  

The Study: “Mediterranean diet adherence is associated with lower dementia risk, independent of genetic predisposition: findings from the UK Biobank prospective cohort study,” BMC Medicine, March 2023.

The Findings: According to researchers from Newcastle University in the UK, people who ate a Mediterranean-like diet had up to a 23% lower risk for dementia than those who did not. This research is one of the biggest studies of its kind, as previous studies have typically been limited to small sample sizes and low numbers of dementia cases.

The Report from Newcastle University: Scientists analyzed data from 60,298 people from the UK Biobank, a large cohort including individuals from across the UK, who had completed a dietary assessment. The authors scored them based on how closely their diet matched the key features of a Mediterranean one. The participants were followed for almost a decade, during which time there were 882 cases of dementia.

The authors considered each individual’s genetic risk for dementia by estimating what is known as their polygenic risk—a measure of all the different genes that are related to the risk of dementia. Oliver Shannon, PhD, Lecturer in Human Nutrition and Ageing, Newcastle University, led the study with Professor Emma Stevenson and joint senior author Professor David Llewellyn. The research also involved experts from the universities of Edinburgh, UEA and Exeter and was part of the Medical Research Council-funded NuBrain consortium.

“Dementia impacts the lives of millions of individuals throughout the world, and there are currently limited options for treating this condition. Finding ways to reduce our risk of developing dementia is, therefore, a major priority for researchers and clinicians. Our study suggests that eating a more Mediterranean-like diet could be one strategy to help individuals lower their risk of dementia,” Dr. Shannon says.

The University of Exeter’s Janice Ranson, PhD, joint lead author on the paper, says, “The findings from this large population-based study underscore the long-term brain health benefits of consuming a Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. The protective effect of this diet against dementia was evident regardless of a person’s genetic risk, and so this is likely to be a beneficial lifestyle choice for people looking to make healthy dietary choices and reduce their risk of dementia. Future dementia prevention efforts could go beyond generic healthy diet advice and focus on supporting people to increase consumption of specific foods and nutrients that are essential for brain health.”

The authors caution that their analysis is limited to individuals who self-reported their ethnic background as white, British, or Irish, as genetic data was only available based on European ancestry, and that further research is needed in a range of populations to determine the potential benefit. They conclude that, based on their data, a Mediterranean diet that has a high intake of healthy plant-based foods may be an important intervention to incorporate into future strategies to reduce dementia risk.

The Bottom Line: According to the study abstract, “higher adherence to a MedDiet was associated with lower dementia risk, independent of genetic risk, underlining the importance of diet in dementia prevention interventions.”

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Olive oil is shown to improve brain health and memory in individuals with mild cognitive impairment

Adapted from an article by Matt Crouch, Auburn University (, March 6, 2023

Extra virgin olive oil may have positive effects on individuals with mild cognitive impairment, according to a recently completed study published in the journal Nutrients. The study’s findings suggest that compounds found in olive oil positively affect brain health and help improve the blood-brain barrier.

In the study, 25 adult participants experiencing mild cognitive impairment consumed 30 ml (about three tablespoons) of olive oil per day for six months. Thirteen of the participants consumed extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and 12 consumed refined olive oil (ROO), as a control group. EVOO is rich in phenols, while ROO has been purified of phenols.

Study participants took several tests before and after consuming olive oil, including MRI scans, cognitive tests, and blood analysis to measure biomarkers related to Alzheimer’s disease.

This study evaluated the blood-brain barrier and its permeability—the degree to which it protects the brain. The blood-brain barrier, a network of blood vessels and tissue made up of closely spaced cells, plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy brain by protecting the brain from exposure to blood-related neurotoxins and in the clearance of brain waste products.

The study also measured levels of beta-amyloid and tau, two proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease. In people with Alzheimer’s disease, levels of beta-amyloid and tau are increased.

The benefits of olive oil consumption were more pronounced in the EVOO group, but participants in the ROO group experienced improvements as well: Both EVOO and ROO improved cognitive function, as determined by the improved clinical dementia rating and other behavioral scores. Additionally, “our findings showed that EVOO and ROO altered two major biomarkers related to Alzheimer’s disease,” said Kaddoumi. “These alterations collectively could have played a role in improving the blood-brain barrier and improving function and memory.”

This study in individuals with mild cognitive impairment is the first to evaluate what happens to the human brain as a result of consuming olive oil.

“These results are exciting because they support the health benefits of olive oil against Alzheimer’s disease,” said Kaddoumi. “Based on the findings of this study and previous preclinical studies… we can conclude that adding olive oil to our diet could maintain a healthy brain and improve memory function.”

Reference: Kaddoumi A, Denney TS, Deshpande G et al. Extra-virgin olive oil enhances the blood-brain barrier function in mild cognitive impairment: a randomized controlled trial. Nutrients. 2023;14(23):5102.