European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 1667–1675 | Cite as

Fish consumption, intake of fats and cognitive decline at middle and older age: the Doetinchem Cohort Study

  • Astrid C. J. Nooyens
  • Boukje M. van Gelder
  • H. Bas Bueno-de-Mesquita
  • Martin P. J. van Boxtel
  • W. M. Monique Verschuren
Original Contribution



To get insight in the impact of fish and fat intake in the prevention of accelerated cognitive decline with ageing, we tested associations between fish and different fat intakes and 5-year change in cognitive functions.


In 2612 men and women of the Doetinchem Cohort Study, aged 43–70 years at baseline, dietary intake (including fish consumption) and cognitive function were assessed at baseline and at 5-year follow-up. Average fish consumption (frequency) and intakes (as energy percentages) of total fat, saturated, mono unsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), linoleic, docosahexaenoic, eicosapentaenoic, and a-linolenic acid (ALA), and cholesterol were averaged over baseline and follow-up. Intakes were studied in relation to 5-year change in global cognitive function, memory, information processing speed, and cognitive flexibility, using ANCOVA and multivariate linear regression analyses.


No consistent association between (fatty) fish consumption and cognitive decline was observed. Higher cholesterol intake was associated with faster cognitive decline (p < 0.05). Higher n-3 PUFA (especially ALA) intake was associated with slower decline in global cognitive function and memory (p < 0.01). Intakes of other fatty acids were not associated with cognitive decline.


Higher cholesterol intake was detrimental, while higher ALA intake was beneficial for maintaining cognitive function with ageing, already at middle age.


Cognitive decline Cholesterol Fatty acids Fish consumption Middle age n-3 PUFA 



This study was financially supported with a grant from the Internationale Stichting Alzheimer Onderzoek (ISAO, Grant No. 08551). The Doetinchem Cohort Study is financially supported by the Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sport of The Netherlands and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. The data up to and including 1997, including the dietary assessment method, were additionally financially supported by the Europe against Cancer programme of the European Commission (DG SANCO). Funders had no role with respect to methods and content of this study. There were no conflicts of interest. The authors thank the respondents and the epidemiologists and fieldworkers of the Municipal Health Service in Doetinchem for their contribution to the data collection for this study. Principal investigator is Prof WMM Verschuren. Logistic management was provided by J Steenbrink and P Vissink, and administrative support by EP van der Wolf. Data management was provided by A Blokstra, AWD van Kessel and PE Steinberger.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical standards

Examination rounds of the Doetinchem Cohort Study have been completed in compliance with the Helsinki Declaration and approved by an external Medical Ethics Committee (TNO). Written informed consent was obtained from all subjects.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Nutrition, Prevention and Health Services (VPZ)National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM)BilthovenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Gastroenterology and HepatologyUniversity Medical Centre Utrecht (UMCU)UtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.The School of Public HealthImperial College LondonLondonUK
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry and NeuropsychologyMaastricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Julius Centre for Health Sciences and Primary CareUniversity Medical Centre Utrecht (UMCU)UtrechtThe Netherlands

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