Dietary fat types and 4-year cognitive change in community-dwelling older women

Ann Neurol. 2012 Jul;72(1):124-34. doi: 10.1002/ana.23593. Epub 2012 May 18.


Objective: A study was undertaken to relate dietary fat types to cognitive change in healthy community-based elders.

Methods: Among 6,183 older participants in the Women's Health Study, we related intake of major fatty acids (saturated [SFA], monounsaturated [MUFA], total polyunsaturated [PUFA], trans-unsaturated) to late-life cognitive trajectory. Serial cognitive testing, conducted over 4 years, began 5 years after dietary assessment. Primary outcomes were global cognition (averaging tests of general cognition, verbal memory, and semantic fluency) and verbal memory (averaging tests of recall). We used analyses of response profiles and logistic regression to estimate multivariate-adjusted differences in cognitive trajectory and risk of worst cognitive change (worst 10%) by fat intake.

Results: Higher SFA intake was associated with worse global cognitive (p for linear trend = 0.008) and verbal memory (p for linear trend = 0.01) trajectories. There was a higher risk of worst cognitive change, comparing highest versus lowest SFA quintiles; the multivariate-adjusted odds ratio (OR) with 95% confidence interval (CI) was 1.64 (1.04-2.58) for global cognition and 1.65 (1.04-2.61) for verbal memory. By contrast, higher MUFA intake was related to better global cognitive (p for linear trend < 0.001) and verbal memory (p for linear trend = 0.009) trajectories, and lower OR (95% CI) of worst cognitive change in global cognition (0.52 [0.31-0.88]) and verbal memory (0.56 [0.34-0.94]). Total fat, PUFA, and trans-fat intakes were not associated with cognitive trajectory.

Interpretation: Higher SFA intake was associated with worse global cognitive and verbal memory trajectories, whereas higher MUFA intake was related to better trajectories. Thus, different consumption levels of the major specific fat types, rather than total fat intake itself, appeared to influence cognitive aging.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Dietary Fats*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Memory / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Women


  • Dietary Fats