Dementia is a complex, growing challenge for population health worldwide. Dietary patterns (DPs) may offer an opportunity to beneficially influence cognitive ageing and potentially reduce an individuals' risk of dementia through diet-related mechanisms. However, previous studies within this area have shown mixed results, which may be partly explained by the lack of sensitivity and accuracy within cognitive testing methods. Novel neuroimaging techniques provide a sensitive method to analyse brain changes preceding cognitive impairment which may have previously remained undetected. The purpose of this systematic review was to elucidate the role of DPs in relation to brain ageing processes, by summarising current prospective and intervention studies. Nine prospective studies met the inclusion criteria for the review, seven evaluated the Mediterranean diet (MeDi), one evaluated the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010, and one evaluated a posteriori derived DPs. No intervention studies were eligible for inclusion in this review. There was some evidence of an association between healthy DPs and neuroimaging markers including changes within these markers over time. Consequently, it is plausible that better adherence to such DPs may positively influence brain ageing and neurodegeneration. Future studies may benefit from the use of multi-modal neuroimaging techniques, to further investigate how adherence to a DP influences brain health. The review also highlights the crucial need for further intervention studies within this research area.
Keywords: brain health; diet; dietary patterns; neurocognition; neuroimaging.
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