The Dietary Carbohydrate/Fat-Ratio and Cognitive Performance: Panel Analyses in Older Adults at Risk for Dementia

Curr Dev Nutr. 2023 May 7;7(6):100096. doi: 10.1016/j.cdnut.2023.100096. eCollection 2023 Jun.


Background: Roughly 80% of total energy intake (TEI) in most human diets originates from digestible carbohydrates (eCarb) and fat (eFat), but the impact of their proportions on cognitive performance is poorly understood.

Objectives: Our primary aim was to investigate estimates of global cognition in relation to macronutrient intake, with the log-ratio eCarb/eFat (CFr) as the primary predictor variable of interest. Secondary predictors were protein and the saturated/total fat ratio. Exploratory comparisons of CFr with eCarb and eFat as separate predictors were an additional aim.

Methods: The observations were made on panel data (years 0, 1, 2) from the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability, n = 1251; age 60-77 y; 47% females; selected by risk factors for dementia. Self-reported diet was assessed by 3-d food records. Global cognition was measured using a modified Neuropsychological Test Battery. A mixed linear regression model was used, adjusted for age, sex, education, body-mass index, cholesterol-lowering drugs, TEI, time, time × intervention/control group, with study site and subject as random factors. Estimates were standardized (mean = 0; SD = 1) with 95% CI.

Results: CFr had a negative estimate to global cognition (β = -0.022, CI: -0.039, -0.005; P = 0.011). The point estimate for protein was β = 0.013 (P = 0.41), and for the saturated/total fat ratio, associations with cognition were nonlinear. CFr correlated highly with eCarb (Pearson's r = 0.92) and eFat (r = -0.94). The point estimate for CFr fell between eCarb (β = -0.026, P < 0.001) and (inversely) eFat (β = 0.017, P = 0.090).

Conclusions: A lower CFr was associated with better global cognition among older adults at risk for dementia. Because this is an important target group for preventive interventions, clinical trials are warranted to further investigate the impact of macronutritional composition on cognitive health. The potential role of CFr as a predictor for cognitive health should be further studied.

Keywords: aged; cognitive decline; compositional data; macronutrients; memory; nutritional epidemiology; target trial.