Those who ate more monounsaturated fats such as those in olive oil and nuts had better test scores
Saturated fats are linked to worsening cognitive function and memory loss in women, according to researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, USA.
Using data from the Women’s Health Study, which followed 40,000 women aged 45 and older, they selected a group of 6000 women all aged over 65. The women had three cognitive function tests every two years over a period of four years and filled out detailed surveys about their diets. When analysing the data the researchers found that although total fat intake didn’t appear to have an effect on cognitive function the type of fat did. Those who had the highest intake of saturated fat – from animal fat and dairy sources, for example – had worse cognitive abilities, including memory recall, than those who ate the least. Furthermore, women who ate more monounsaturated fats such as those in olive oil and nuts, had better test scores over the study period.
Subtle changes in cognitive function can lead to a higher risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s, say the researchers, so the finding that simple changes in diet could be beneficial has important public health implications. “Substituting good fat in place of bad fat is a fairly simple dietary modification that could help prevent decline in memory,” says study author Olivia Okereke.