Diet as a Risk Factor for Cognitive Decline in African Americans and Caucasians with a Parental History of Alzheimer's Disease: A Cross-Sectional Pilot Study Dietary Patterns

J Prev Alzheimers Dis. 2019;6(1):50-55. doi: 10.14283/jpad.2018.44.


Background: African Americans (AA) are more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease (AD) than Caucasians (CC). Dietary modification may have the potential to reduce the risk of developing AD.

Objective: The objective of this study is to investigate the relationship between Southern and Prudent diet patterns and cognitive performance in individuals at risk for developing AD.

Design: Cross-sectional observational study.

Participants: Sixty-six cognitively normal AA and CC individuals aged 46-77 years with a parental history of AD were enrolled.

Measurements: Participants completed a Food Frequency questionnaire, cognitive function testing, which consisted of 8 neuropsychological tests, and cardiovascular risk factor assessments, including evaluation of microvascular and macrovascular function and ambulatory blood pressure monitoring.

Results: Results revealed a relationship between the Southern diet and worse cognitive performance among AAs. AAs who consumed pies, mashed potatoes, tea, and sugar drinks showed worse cognitive performance (p<0.05) compared with CCs. In addition, gravy (p=0.06) and cooking oil/fat (p=0.06) showed negative trends with cognitive performance in AAs. In both CC and AA adults, greater adherence to a Prudent dietary pattern was associated with better cognitive outcomes. Cardiovascular results show that participants are overall healthy. AAs and CCs did not differ on any vascular measure including BP, arterial stiffness and endothelial function.

Conclusion: Research shows that dietary factors can associate with cognitive outcomes. This preliminary cross-sectional study suggests that foods characteristic of the Southern and Prudent diets may have differential effects on cognitive function in middle-aged individuals at high risk for AD. Results suggest that diet could be a non-pharmaceutical tool to reduce cognitive decline in racially diverse populations. It is possible that the increased prevalence of AD in AA could be partially reduced via diet modification.

Keywords: African-American; Alzheimer’s disease; cognition; diet; nutrition; prevention; race; vascular.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics*
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / epidemiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Family Health*
  • Female
  • Georgia / epidemiology
  • Hemodynamics / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Parents*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Risk Factors
  • White People / psychology*