The role of diet in cognitive decline


Recent findings suggest a possible role of diet in age-related cognitive decline, and cognitive impairment of both degenerative (Alzheimer's disease, AD) or vascular origin. In particular, in an older population of Southern Italy with a typical Mediterranean diet, high monounsaturated fatty acids energy intake appeared to be associated with a high protection against cognitive decline. In addition, dietary fat and energy in older people seem to be risk factors, while fish consumption and cereals are found to reduce the prevalence of AD in the European and North American countries. Moreover, foods with large amounts of aluminium-containing additives or aluminium from drinking water may affect the risk of developing AD. Vitamin deficiencies, especially vitamin B6, B12 and folates, and antioxidant deficiencies (vitamins E and C) could also influence the memory capabilities and have an effect on cognitive decline. Dietary anti-oxidants and supplements and specific macronutrients of the diet may act synergistically with other protective factors opening new possibilities of intervention for cognitive decline.

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Received March 7, 2002; accepted June 12, 2002 Published online August 22, 2002

Acknowledgements This study was supported by Italian Longitudinal Study on Ageing (ILSA) (Italian National Research Council – CNR-Targeted Project on Ageing – Grants 9400419PF40 and 95973PF40), by Targeted Project on Mediterranean Diet (Italian National Research Council – CNR), by MURST 40% and 60%, by CARSO Consortium, Cancer Research Center, University of Bari, and by AFORIGE (“Associazione per la FOrmazione e la RIcerca in Geriatria”). VS and FP participate in the Ph.D.: “Carcinogenesis, Ageing, and Immunoregulation”, supported by European Union. The authors wish to thank Ms D. Calamita, Ms N. Lobascio, Dr G. Castellaneta, and Dr A. Terralavoro, Pfizer Inc., for skilful assistance.

Authors' address: F. Panza, M.D., Department of Geriatrics, Center for Aging Brain, Memory Unit, University of Bari, Policlinico, Piazza Giulio Cesare, 11, I-70124 Bari, Italy, e-mail:

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Solfrizzi, V., Panza, F. & Capurso, A. The role of diet in cognitive decline. J Neural Transm 110, 95–110 (2003).

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  • Keywords: MUFA
  • diet
  • antioxidants
  • age-related cognitive decline
  • dementia
  • aluminium
  • Mediterranean diet
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • vascular dementia
  • mild cognitive impairment.