Edinburgh Imaging

08 Jan 21. Featured Paper

Dietary patterns, cognitive function, & structural neuroimaging measures of brain aging.

Link to paper on Experimental Gerontology



Janie Corley, Simon R. Cox, Adele M. Taylor, Maria Valdés Hernandez, Susana Muñoz Maniega, Lucia Ballerini, Stewart Wiseman, Rozanna Meijboom, Ellen V. Backhouse, Mark E. Bastin, Joanna M. Wardlaw, Ian J. Deary



Objective: To examine the cross-sectional associations between dietary patterns & cognitive & neuroimaging indices of brain health concurrently in the same sample of healthy older adults.

Methods: Dietary patterns were derived from a 130-item food frequency questionnaire for 511 individuals in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 (mean age 79.3 ± 0.6 years).

Composite scores for global cognitive function, visuospatial ability, processing speed, memory, & verbal ability were assessed.

Brain volumes & white matter microstructure were assessed in participants (n = 358) who also underwent structural magnetic resonance imaging.

Results: A Mediterranean-style dietary pattern & a processed dietary pattern were identified using principal component analysis of food frequency questionnaire items.

In fully-adjusted linear regression models, adherence to the Mediterranean-style pattern was associated with better verbal ability (β = 0.121, P = 0.002).

Associations with global cognitive function (β = 0.094, P = 0.043), visuospatial ability (β = 0.113, P = 0.019), & memory (β = 0.105, P = 0.029) did not survive correction for multiple comparisons.

Associations between the processed pattern & lower cognitive scores were attenuated by around 50% following adjustment for prior (childhood) cognitive ability; only an association with verbal ability remained (β = −0.130, P = 0.001).

Neither dietary pattern was associated with brain volumes or white matter microstructure.

Specific Mediterranean diet features—green leafy vegetables & a low intake of red meat—were associated with better cognitive functioning.

Conclusions: These observational findings suggest that adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet is associated with better cognitive functioning, but not better brain structural integrity, in older adults.


  • Cognitive function
  • Dietary patterns
  • Mediterranean diet
  • Neuroimaging
  • Older adults



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Featured paper: Dietary patterns, cognitive function, & structural neuroimaging measures of brain aging.

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