Plant Foods for Human Nutrition

, Volume 68, Issue 3, pp 279–292 | Cite as

Dietary Antioxidants, Cognitive Function and Dementia - A Systematic Review

  • Georgina E. Crichton
  • Janet Bryan
  • Karen J. MurphyEmail author
Original Paper


Antioxidant compounds, contained in fruit, vegetables and tea, have been postulated to have a protective effect against age-related cognitive decline by combating oxidative stress. However, recent research on this subject has been conflicting. The aim of this systematic review was to consider current epidemiological and longitudinal evidence for an association between habitual dietary intake of antioxidants and cognition, with consideration given to both cognitive functioning and risk for dementia and its subtypes, including Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Searches of electronic databases were undertaken to identify peer-reviewed journal articles that reported on associations between antioxidant intakes (vitamins C, E, flavonoids, carotenoids) and cognitive function or risk for dementia. Eight cross-sectional and 13 longitudinal studies were identified and included in the review. There were mixed findings for the association between antioxidant intake, cognition and risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Large heterogeneity in study design, differential control of confounders, insufficient measures of cognitive performance, and difficulties associated with dietary assessment may contribute to the inconsistent findings. Overall, findings do not consistently show habitual intakes of dietary antioxidants are associated with better cognitive performance or a reduced risk for dementia. Future intervention trials are warranted to elucidate the effects of a high intake of dietary antioxidants on cognitive functioning, and to explore effects within a whole dietary pattern.


Dietary antioxidants Vitamin C Cognitive function Dementia Review 



Alzheimer’s disease


Atherosclerosis risk in communities


Baltimore longitudinal study of aging


Body mass index


Cambridge examination of mental disorders in the elderly


Chicago health and aging project


Cardiovascular health study


Campaign against cancer and heart disease


Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, third edition revised


Digit-symbol substitution test


Food frequency questionnaire


Follow-up duration


Geriatric mental state schedule


Hormone replacement therapy


Mini-mental state examination


Mini-mental state examination for Koreans


Not applicable


Personnes agees quid


Pfeiffer’s mental status questionnaire


Vascular dementia


Recommended daily allowance


Reactive oxygen species


Western Sydney stroke in the elderly


Wechsler adult intelligence scale


Weighed food record


Washington heights-inwood Columbia aging project


Wechsler memory scale



KJ Murphy is an NHMRC Industry Research Fellow (399396).

Conflict of Interest

The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.


University of South Australia Division of Health Sciences post-submission scholarship

Supplementary material

11130_2013_370_MOESM1_ESM.doc (97 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 97 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Georgina E. Crichton
    • 1
  • Janet Bryan
    • 2
  • Karen J. Murphy
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Nutritional Physiology Research CentreUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.School of Psychology, Social Work and Social PolicyUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.Nutritional Physiology Research CentreUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia

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