Objective: To examine the association between rates of cognitive change and dietary consumption of fruits and vegetables among older persons.
Methods: The authors conducted a prospective cohort study of 3,718 participants, aged 65 years and older of the Chicago Health and Aging Project. Participants completed a food frequency questionnaire and were administered at least two of three cognitive assessments at baseline, 3-year, and 6-year follow-ups. Cognitive function was measured using the average z-score of four tests: the East Boston Tests of immediate memory and delayed recall, the Mini-Mental State Examination, and the Symbol Digit Modalities Test.
Results: The mean cognitive score at baseline for the analyzed cohort was 0.18 (range: -3.5 to 1.6), and the overall mean change in score per year was a decline of 0.04 standardized units. In mixed effects models adjusted for age, sex, race, and education, compared with the rate of cognitive decline among persons in the lowest quintile of vegetable intake (median of 0.9 servings/day), the rate for persons in the fourth quintile (median, 2.8 servings/day) was slower by 0.019 standardized units per year (p = 0.01), a 40% decrease, and by 0.018 standardized units per year (p = 0.02) for the fifth quintile (median, 4.1 servings/day), or a 38% decrease in rates. The association remained significant (p for linear trend = 0.02) with further control of cardiovascular-related conditions and risk factors. Fruit consumption was not associated with cognitive change.
Conclusion: High vegetable but not fruit consumption may be associated with slower rate of cognitive decline with older age.