Olive oil could be the secret to a healthy old age

Cook with olive oil and you could ward off depression and dementia. The two new studies that make the discoveries add to the mounting evidence that a diet high in fatty acids is good for you after all.

The secret to healthy ageing seems to have a lot to do with monounsaturated fatty acids, and in the case of one of the studies, to the olive oil that is an important part of the participants' diet.

The Italian Study on Ageing has been exploring the lifestyles of 274 people aged between 66 and 84. Around 17 per cent of their energy intake came from monounsaturated fatty acids, a reflection of their olive oil rich diets. Researchers discovered that the more the participants consumed, the lower the risk they ran of developing dementia.

Antonio Capurso from the University of Bari in Italy, and lead author of the study, surmises that the fatty acids could help maintain the neuronal membranes (Neurology, 1999; 52: 1563-9).

In a separate study of 30 patients suffering from depression, those given 9.6 g of fatty acids every day enjoyed longer periods of remission than those given a placebo. The researchers believe that the acids could stabilise mood (Arch Gen Psychiatry, 1999; 56: 407-15).