Keeping Your Memory? Eat the Good Fat

Memory decline reduced with unsaturated fats

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) If you're craving fatty food, it makes a difference whether you reach for red meat sauteed in butter or chicken sizzling in olive oil. The difference is your memory.

A recent study has found that older women are more likely to suffer a poor memory if they have consumed a larger amount of saturated fats rather than the monounsaturated fats in their diet.

"Minimize the amount of saturated fats you eat."

Olivia Okereke, MD, of the Brigham and Women's Hospital Department of Psychiatry, and colleagues analyzed data gathered from 6,183 women over age 65 enrolled in the larger Women's Health Study.

Over a period of four years, the women were given three different cognitive tests every two years. The women also filled out extremely detailed surveys regarding the food they were eating at the start of the overall Women's Health Study before being given the cognitive tests.

The researchers found a link between eating higher amounts of saturated fat and lower brain performance.

The women consuming the most amount of saturated fats, in the top fifth (or top 20 percent) of saturated fat consumption, were 1.65 times as likely to have poor cognitive performance as women in the lowest fifth of saturated fat intake.

Meanwhile, women whose diet was richer in monounsaturated fats were about half as likely to experience cognitive decline.

In short, those who ate a lot of saturated fats had worse memory. Those who ate mostly monounsaturated fats had a better memory.

Saturated fats typically come from animal fats, such as butter or red meat. Monounsaturated fats are found in vegetables and in vegetable oils, like olive oil.

"When looking at changes in cognitive function, what we found is that the total amount of fat intake did not really matter, but the type of fat did," said Dr. Okereke. "Substituting in the good fat in place of the bad fat is a fairly simple dietary modification that could help prevent decline in memory."

The study was published online May 18 in the Annals of Neurology. The research was funded by grants from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and the National Institute on Aging, both from the National Institutes of Health.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 23, 2012
Last Updated:
August 2, 2012