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J Nutr. 2009 Oct;139(10):1944-9. doi: 10.3945/jn.109.106427. Epub 2009 Aug 12.

Diet quality is associated with better cognitive test performance among aging men and women.

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  • 1Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322, USA.


Most studies of association between diet and cognition among the elderly focus on the role of single nutrients or foods and ignore the complexity of dietary patterns and total diet quality. We prospectively examined associations between an index of diet quality and cognitive function and decline among elderly men and women of the Cache County Study on Memory and Aging in Utah. In 1995, 3634 resident men and women > or =65 y of age completed a baseline survey that included a 142-item FFQ. Cognition was assessed using an adapted version of the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination (3MS) at baseline and 3 subsequent interviews spanning approximately 11 y. A recommended food score (RFS) and non-RFS were computed by summing the number of recommended foods (n = 57) and nonrecommended foods (n = 23) regularly consumed. Multivariable-mixed models were used to estimate associations between the RFS and non-RFS and average 3MS score over time. Those in the highest quartile of RFS scored 1.80 points higher on the baseline 3MS test than did those in the lowest quartile of RFS (P < 0.001). This effect was strengthened over 11 y of follow-up. Those with the highest RFS declined by 3.41 points over 11 y compared with the 5.2-point decline experienced by those with the lowest RFS (P = 0.0013). The non-RFS was not associated with cognitive scores. Consuming a diverse diet that includes a variety of recommended foods may help to attenuate age-related cognitive decline among the elderly.

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