European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 1–23 | Cite as

Diet, cognition, and Alzheimer’s disease: food for thought

  • Ane Otaegui-ArrazolaEmail author
  • Pilar Amiano
  • Ana Elbusto
  • Elena Urdaneta
  • Pablo Martínez-Lage



The prevention of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has become a real challenge due to its rising prevalence and the lack of an effective cure. Diet and nutrients have gained significant interest as potentially modifiable protective factors.


The aim of this review is to provide an updated summary of evidence related to the effect of diet and nutritional factors on the risk of AD and cognitive aging, and discuss the potential mechanisms and confounding factors involved.


A search was conducted in Medline and Web of Knowledge for epidemiological and clinical studies in the international literature from January 2000 to February 2013 using combinations of the following keywords: “Alzheimer’s disease”, “mild cognitive impairment”, “cognitive function”, “dietary factors”, “omega-3”, “antioxidants”, “B vitamins”, “dietary patterns”, and “Mediterranean diet”.

Results and conclusion

Data from observational studies point to a protective role for certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants or B vitamins, and dietary patterns (Mediterranean diet). However, data from randomized controlled trials do not show a consistent effect. Whether confounding factors such as age, disease stage, other dietary components, cooking processes, and other methodological issues explain the divergent results remains to be established. Moreover, if certain nutrients protect against dementia, it is as yet unknown whether they may have a general effect on brain vascular health or directly interfere with the etiopathogenesis of AD.


Omega-3 fatty acids Antioxidants B vitamins Mediterranean diet Alzheimer’s disease 


Amyloid beta


Alzheimer’s disease


Dietary approaches to stop hypertension


Docosahexaenoic acid


Eicosapentaenoic acid


Food composition table


Food frequency questionnaire




Health eating index


Mild cognitive impairment


Mediterranean diet






Polyunsaturated fatty acid



Authors thank to the researchers of Fundación CITA-alzhéimer Fundazioa for their expert advice. A predoctoral fellowship grant (Programa Predoctoral, de Formación de Personal Investigador no doctor, RBFI-2012-90) was received from the Basque Government (AOA).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ane Otaegui-Arrazola
    • 1
    Email author
  • Pilar Amiano
    • 2
    • 3
  • Ana Elbusto
    • 4
  • Elena Urdaneta
    • 5
  • Pablo Martínez-Lage
    • 1
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of NeurologyFundación CITA-alzhéimer FundazioaSan SebastiánSpain
  2. 2.Public Health Division of Gipuzkoa, Research Institute of BioDonostiaBasque GovernmentSan SerbastiánSpain
  3. 3.CIBER, CIBER of Epidemiology and Public HealthMadridSpain
  4. 4.Department of Nutrition and HealthUniversity of the Basque CountrySan SebastiánSpain
  5. 5.Basque Culinary CenterSan SebastiánSpain
  6. 6.CIBERNED, CIBER of Neurodegenerative diseasesSan SebastiánSpain

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