In the last decade, the association between diet and cognitive function or dementia has been largely investigated. In the present article, we systematically reviewed observational studies published in the last three years (2014-2016) on the relationship among dietary factors and late-life cognitive disorders at different levels of investigation (i.e., dietary patterns, foods and food-groups, and dietary micro- and macronutrients), and possible underlying mechanisms of the proposed associations. From the reviewed evidence, the National Institute on Aging-Alzheimer's Association guidelines for Alzheimer's disease (AD) and cognitive decline due to AD pathology introduced some evidence suggesting a direct relation between diet and changes in the brain structure and activity. There was also accumulating evidence that combinations of foods and nutrients into certain patterns may act synergistically to provide stronger health effects than those conferred by their individual dietary components. In particular, higher adherence to a Mediterranean-type diet was associated with decreased cognitive decline. Moreover, also other emerging healthy dietary patterns such as the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and the Mediterranean-DASH diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diets were associated with slower rates of cognitive decline and significant reduction of AD rate. Furthermore, some foods or food groups traditionally considered harmful such as eggs and red meat have been partially rehabilitated, while there is still a negative correlation of cognitive functions with saturated fatty acids and a protective effect against cognitive decline of elevated fish consumption, high intake of monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), particularly n-3 PUFA.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Mediterranean diet; dementia; dietary pattern; food groups; foods; healthy diet; macronutrients; micronutrients; mild cognitive impairment.