Abstract

Objective: To examine the cross-sectional relationship between dietary patterns and psychometric and imaging indices of brain health concurrently in the same sample of healthy older adults.
Methods: Dietary patterns were derived from a 130-item food frequency questionnaire for 511 individuals in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 (mean age 79.3 ± 0.6 years). Composite variables for global cognitive function, visuospatial ability, processing speed, memory, and verbal ability were assessed. Brain volumes and white matter microstructure were assessed in participants (n = 358) who also underwent structural magnetic resonance imaging.
Results: A Mediterranean-style dietary pattern and a processed dietary pattern were identified using principal component analysis of food frequency questionnaire items. In fully-adjusted linear regression models, adherence to the Mediterranean-style pattern was associated with better verbal ability (β = 0.121, P = 0.002). Associations with global cognitive function (β = 0.094, P = 0.043), visuospatial ability (β = 0.113, P = 0.019), and memory (β = 0.105, P = 0.029) did not survive correction for multiple comparisons. Associations between the processed pattern and lower cognitive scores were attenuated by around 50% following adjustment for prior (childhood) cognitive ability; only an association with verbal ability remained (β = -0.130, P = 0.001). Neither dietary pattern was associated with brain volumes or white matter microstructure. Specific Mediterranean diet features— green leafy vegetables and a low intake of red meat—were associated with better cognitive functioning.
Conclusions: These observational findings suggest that adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet is associated with better cognitive functioning, but not better brain structural integrity, in older adults.
Original languageEnglish
Article number111117
JournalExperimental gerontology
Early online date17 Oct 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Oct 2020

Keywords

  • Mediterranean diet
  • older adults
  • neuroimaging
  • cognitive function
  • dietary patterns

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