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J Nutr. 2018 Dec 1;148(12):1938-1945. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxy206.

Unsaturated Fatty Acid Intakes During Midlife Are Positively Associated with Later Cognitive Function in Older Adults with Modulating Effects of Antioxidant Supplementation.

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Université Paris 13, Equipe de Recherche en Epidémiologie Nutritionnelle (EREN), Centre d'Epidémiologie et Statistiques Sorbonne Paris Cité, Inserm (U1153), Inra (U1125), Cnam, COMUE Sorbonne Paris Cité, Bobigny, France.
Département de Santé Publique, Hôpital Avicenne, Bobigny, France.



Given the drastic demographic changes characterized as "population aging," the disease burden related to dementia is a major public health problem. The scientific literature documenting the link between mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs, PUFAs) and cognitive function during aging is plentiful, but findings are inconsistent.


We aimed to evaluate the association between intakes of unsaturated fatty acids at midlife and cognitive performance 13 y later in French adults, and to test for a modulating effect of antioxidant supplementation.


Fatty acid intakes were estimated with the use of repeated 24-h records (1994-1996) among 3362 subjects (mean ± SD age: 65.5 ± 4.6 y) of the SU.VI.MAX (Supplementation with Antioxidant Vitamins and Minerals) study, including an intervention phase (1994-2002) during which participants were randomly assigned to an "antioxidant supplementation" or placebo group. Cognitive performance was assessed at follow-up only (in 2007-2009) via a battery of 6 standardized neuropsychological tests. A global cognitive score was calculated as the sum of T-scores of the 6 tests. Multivariable-adjusted regression analyses were performed to provide regression coefficients and 95% CIs.


In multivariable models, total MUFAs, total PUFAs, and n-6 PUFAs (ω-6 PUFAs) were positively associated with overall cognitive functioning. n-3 PUFA (ω-3 PUFA) intakes showed positive associations among supplemented participants only (mean difference Tertile3 versus Tertile1: 1.40; 95% CI: 0.30, 2.51; P-trend = 0.01, P-interaction = 0.01). A detrimental role of arachidonic acid for cognitive functioning was only detected in the placebo group (mean difference Tertile3 versus Tertile1: -1.38; 95% CI: -2.57, -0.18; P-trend = 0.02, P-interaction = 0.07).


Whereas higher total MUFA and n-6 PUFA intakes may be generally beneficial for maintaining cognitive health during aging, a higher consumption of n-3 fatty acids may only be beneficial among individuals with an adequate antioxidant status. These findings underline the importance of not only focusing on specific nutrients for dementia prevention, but also considering the complex interaction between consumed nutrients. This trial was registered at as NCT00272428.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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