Background: Choline is the precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Loss of cholinergic neurons is associated with impaired cognitive function, particularly memory loss and Alzheimer disease (AD). Brain atrophy and white-matter hyperintensity (WMH) are also associated with impaired cognitive function and AD.
Objective: The objective was to determine whether a relation exists between dietary choline intake, cognitive function, and brain morphology in a large, nondemented community-based cohort.
Design: A dementia-free cohort of 1391 subjects (744 women, 647 men; age range: 36-83 y; mean ± SD age: 60.9 ± 9.29 y) from the Framingham Offspring population completed a food-frequency questionnaire administered from 1991 to 1995 (exam 5; remote intake) and from 1998 to 2001 (exam 7; concurrent intake). Participants underwent neuropsychological evaluation and brain MRI at exam 7. Four neuropsychological factors were constructed: verbal memory (VM), visual memory (VsM), verbal learning, and executive function. MRI measures included WMH volume (WMHV).
Results: Performance on the VM and VsM factors was better with higher concurrent choline intake in multivariable-adjusted models for VM (average change in neuropsychological factor per 1-unit change in choline = 0.60; 95% CI: 0.29, 0.91; P < 0.01) and VsM (0.66; 95% CI: 0.19, 1.13; P < 0.01). Remote choline intake was inversely related to log-transformed WMHV (average change in log WMHV per 1-unit change in choline = -0.05; 95% CI: -0.10, -0.01; P = 0.02). Furthermore, an inverse association was observed between remote higher choline intake and presence of large WMVH (OR: 0.56; 95% CI: 0.34, 0.92; P = 0.01).
Conclusion: In this community-based population of nondemented individuals, higher concurrent choline intake was related to better cognitive performance, whereas higher remote choline intake was associated with little to no WMHV.