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Neurobiol Aging. 2008 Sep;29(9):1394-403. Epub 2007 Apr 11.

Plasma carotenoids and tocopherols and cognitive function: a prospective study.

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  • 1Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


As a site of high metabolic activity, the brain is particularly susceptible to oxidative damage. We explored the association between plasma antioxidants and cognition. In 858 female participants of the Nurses' Health Study, aged 70+ years, we measured plasma carotenoids and tocopherols in 1989-1990, and assessed cognitive function by telephone beginning in 1995-2001; assessments were repeated twice at 2-year intervals. We used linear regression to estimate multivariable-adjusted mean cognitive performance at the initial assessment by quartile of antioxidants, and longitudinal models for analyzing cognitive decline over 4 years. Higher antioxidant levels were not associated with initial performance or decline. Mean difference in initial global composite score (averaging all six cognitive tests) for the top versus bottom quartile of total carotenoids was -0.05 standard units (95% confidence interval [CI] -0.19, 0.09), and 0.04 units for total tocopherols (95% CI -0.10, 0.18). Individual antioxidants were not associated with cognition. Overall, total plasma carotenoids or tocopherols were not related to cognition in women.

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