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Amino Acids. 2013 Nov;45(5):1035-45. doi: 10.1007/s00726-013-1583-0. Epub 2013 Aug 29.

Literature review on the role of dietary protein and amino acids in cognitive functioning and cognitive decline.

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Division of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University, Bomenweg 4, P.O. Box 8129, 6700 EV, Wageningen, The Netherlands,


As the population of elderly people is growing rapidly, the number of individuals with dementia and cognitive impairment is also increasing. One of the preventive measures against cognitive decline is diet and different dietary factors have already been investigated. This review provides an overview of studies on dietary protein and cognitive functioning and cognitive decline. Also studies on the individual amino acids that are related to brain function, tryptophan and tyrosine, are discussed. Overall, the role of dietary protein intake on cognitive functioning as well as cognitive decline has hardly been studied; we found eight observational studies and three intervention studies. More studies investigated the role of tryptophan (14 studies) and tyrosine (nine studies) in relation to cognitive functioning, but all these studies were performed in young adult populations and mostly under special conditions. Research in elderly populations, in particular, is warranted. Also more research is needed to come to definitive conclusions and specific recommendations regarding protein intake or intake of specific amino acids for maintaining optimal cognitive functioning.

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