Nutrients and Foods Associated with Cognitive Function
Speakers: K. L. Tucker,
Presented at: The Role of Nutrition in Dementia Prevention and Management
With population aging, cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s diseaserepresent critical health concerns. Accumulating data support animportant role for nutrition in the prevention or slowing of cognitivedecline. Many studies have shown protective roles for B vitamins,including vitamins B12, B6 and folate, both through their effecton homocysteine concentration, and independently. Recently,vitamin D status, which is currently insufficient in large proportionsof the population, also has been shown to be important. In addition,there is evidence for omega-3 fatty acids, which are importantfor brain cell membranes as well as for protection against inflammationand thrombosis. In all of these cases, there is evidence thateffects may depend on genetic predisposition. Although individualnutrients have been most studied, increasing evidence points notonly to the major vitamins, minerals and fatty acids, but also tophytonutrients, such as flavonoids, in the diet. This moves the conversationfrom nutrient supplements to foods as protective againstcognitive decline. Recent evidence supports the role of fruit andvegetables, particularly variety in fruit and vegetable intake as protective.Studies have also shown protective effects of cocoa andberry intakes, likely due to their polyphenol content. Nuts have alsobeen shown to be protective due to their content of several protectivenutrients. While more research is needed on individual nutrientsand foods that protect cognitive function, the realization thatmultiple measures of diet quality relate to this outcome has movedthe field to consider the total dietary pattern, which is the topic ofthe following presentation.