Background: Healthy dietary patterns may protect against age-related cognitive decline, but results of studies have been inconsistent.
Objective: We examined associations between Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)- and Mediterranean-style dietary patterns and age-related cognitive change in a prospective, population-based study.
Design: Participants included 3831 men and women ≥65 y of age who were residents of Cache County, UT, in 1995. Cognitive function was assessed by using the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination (3MS) ≤4 times over 11 y. Diet-adherence scores were computed by summing across the energy-adjusted rank-order of individual food and nutrient components and categorizing participants into quintiles of the distribution of the diet accordance score. Mixed-effects repeated-measures models were used to examine 3MS scores over time across increasing quintiles of dietary accordance scores and individual food components that comprised each score.
Results: The range of rank-order DASH and Mediterranean diet scores was 1661-25,596 and 2407-26,947, respectively. Higher DASH and Mediterranean diet scores were associated with higher average 3MS scores. People in quintile 5 of DASH averaged 0.97 points higher than those in quintile 1 (P = 0.001). The corresponding difference for Mediterranean quintiles was 0.94 (P = 0.001). These differences were consistent over 11 y. Higher intakes of whole grains and nuts and legumes were also associated with higher average 3MS scores [mean quintile 5 compared with 1 differences: 1.19 (P < 0.001), 1.22 (P < 0.001), respectively].
Conclusions: Higher levels of accordance with both the DASH and Mediterranean dietary patterns were associated with consistently higher levels of cognitive function in elderly men and women over an 11-y period. Whole grains and nuts and legumes were positively associated with higher cognitive functions and may be core neuroprotective foods common to various healthy plant-centered diets around the globe.