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Diet quality and cognitive function in mid-aged and older men and women

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Background: To date much research into nutrition and cognitive function has been at the nutrient or food level, with inconsistent results. There is increasing interest in the dietary pattern approach to assess whole diet quality and its association with cognitive function. This study investigated if diet quality is associated with cognitive function in men and women aged 55 years and over. Methods: Adults aged 55-65 years in the Wellbeing, Eating and Exercise for a Long Life (WELL) study in Victoria, Australia (n = 617) completed a postal survey including a 111-item food frequency questionnaire in 2010 and 2014. Diet quality was assessed via the revised dietary guideline index (DGI-2013) and also by its individual components which assessed key food groups and dietary behaviours from the Australian Dietary Guidelines. The Telephone Interview of Cognitive Status (TICS-m) measured cognitive function in 2014. Associations between past (2010) and recent (2014) diet quality and its components, and cognitive function were assessed by linear regression adjusted for covariates. Results: After adjustment for age, sex, education, urban/rural status and physical activity there were no associations between diet quality in 2010 and cognitive function in 2014. However participants who reported higher dietary variety (B = 0.28, 95% CI 0.03, 0.52) and women who reported "sometimes" adding salt to food after cooking (B = 0.98, 95% CI 0.25, 1.71) in 2010 displayed better cognitive function in 2014. In 2014, usual consumption of higher fibre bread choices in the total sample (B = 1.32, 95% CI 0.42, 2.23), and higher diet quality (B = 0.03, 95% CI 0.00, 0.07) and greater fluid consumption (B = 0.14, 95% CI 0.01, 0.27) in men were all associated with better cognitive function. In addition, men who reported "usually" adding salt to their food during cooking displayed poorer cognitive function (B = -1.37, 95% CI -2.39, - 0.35). There were no other associations between dietary intake and cognitive function observed in the adjusted models. Conclusion: An association between dietary variety and some limited dietary behaviours and cognitive function was observed, with variation by gender. Future research should consider trajectories of dietary change over longer time periods as determinants of health and function in older age.



BMC Geriatrics



Article number



1 - 14


BioMed Central


London, Eng.





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal