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Nutr J. 2017 Sep 11;16(1):56. doi: 10.1186/s12937-017-0273-2.

Association between dietary patterns and cognitive function among 70-year-old Japanese elderly: a cross-sectional analysis of the SONIC study.

Author information

Department of Health Promotion, National Institute of Public Health, 2-3-6 Minami, Wako-shi, Saitama, 351-0197, Japan.
Tokyo Metropolitan Geriatric Hospital and Institute of Gerontology, Tokyo, Japan.
Department of Clinical Thanatology and Geriatric Behavioral Science, Osaka University Graduate School of Human Sciences, Osaka, Japan.
Department of Health Science, Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka, Japan.
Department of Prosthodontics, Gerontology and Oral Rehabilitation, Osaka University Graduate School of Dentistry, Osaka, Japan.
Center for Supercentenarian Medical Research, Keio University, School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan.
Department of Social and Preventive Epidemiology, School of Public Health, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.
University Research Priority Program "Dynamics in Healthy Aging", The University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland and Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Tokyo, Japan.
Department of Geriatric and General Medicine, Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka, Japan.



An increasing number of studies in Western countries have shown that healthy dietary patterns may have a protective effect against cognitive decline and dementia. However, information on this relationship among non-Western populations with different cultural settings is extremely limited. We aim to examine the relationship between dietary patterns and cognitive function among older Japanese people.


This cross-sectional study included 635 community-dwelling people aged 69-71 years who participated in the prospective cohort study titled Septuagenarians, Octogenarians, Nonagenarians Investigation with Centenarians (SONIC). Diet was assessed over a one-month period with a validated, brief-type, self-administered diet history questionnaire. Dietary patterns from thirty-three predefined food groups [energy-adjusted food (g/d)] were extracted by factor analysis. Cognitive function was assessed using the Japanese version of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA-J). Multivariate regression analysis was performed to examine the relationship between dietary patterns and cognitive function.


Three dietary patterns were identified: the 'Plant foods and fish', 'Rice and miso soup', and 'Animal food' patterns. The 'Plant foods and fish' pattern, characterized by high intakes of green and other vegetables, soy products, seaweeds, mushrooms, potatoes, fruit, fish, and green tea, was significantly associated with a higher MoCA-J score [MoCA-J score per one-quartile increase in dietary pattern: β = 0.56 (95% CI: 0.33, 0.79), P for trend <0.001]. This association was still evident after adjustment for potential confounding factors [β = 0.41 (95% CI: 0.17, 0.65), P for trend <0.001]. In contrast, neither the 'Rice and miso soup' nor the 'Animal food' pattern was related to cognitive function. To confirm the possibility of reverse causation we also conducted a sensitivity analysis excluding 186 subjects who reported substantial changes in their diet for any reason, but the results did not change materially.


This preliminary cross-sectional study suggests that a diet with high intakes of vegetables, soy products, fruit, and fish may have a beneficial effect on cognitive function in older Japanese people. Further prospective studies are needed to confirm this finding.


Cognitive function, Dietary pattern; Elderly; Factor analysis; Japanese

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