Effect of the replacement of dietary vegetable oils with a low dose of extravirgin olive oil in the Mediterranean Diet on cognitive functions in the elderly

J Transl Med. 2018 Jan 19;16(1):10. doi: 10.1186/s12967-018-1386-x.


Background: Numerous studies have investigated the role of the monounsaturated fatty acid and other dietary factors in the prevention of cognitive decline but the short-term effect of a low dose of extravirgin olive oil on cognitive performances in the elderly have not still been investigated. Our aim was to investigate whether the replacement of all vegetable oils with a lower amount of extravirgin olive oil, in the contest of a Mediterranean Diet, would improve cognitive performances, among elderly Italian individuals.

Methods: 180 elderly individuals were randomly assigned to these treatment groups for 1 year: (1) MedDiet plus extravirgin OO, 20-30 g/day; (2) control MedDiet. The cognitive sub-test of ADAScale was used to detect cognitive decline progression over 12 months.

Results: ADAS-cog score variation after 1 year, adjusted for food groups which were different between groups, was - 1.6 ± 0.4 and - 3.0 ± 0.4 in the MedDiet and MedDiet plus extravirgin OO groups, respectively (p = 0.024). Extravirgin OO intake was 30 g ± 12 and 26 g ± 6 in the MedDiet and MedDiet plus extravirgin OO groups, respectively (p = 0.044).

Conclusions: We demonstrated the higher short-term improvement of cognitive functions scores in individuals of the MedDiet plus low dose of extravirgin olive oil rather than MedDiet alone. Extravirgin olive oil is the best quality oil and may have a neuroprotective effect.

Keywords: Cognitive functions; Elderly; Extravirgin olive oil; Mediterranean Diet.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Diet, Mediterranean*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Olive Oil / pharmacology*
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology*


  • Olive Oil
  • Plant Oils