Diet plays an important role in cognition and brain health

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A recent study conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital has illuminated the potential impact of dietary choices on cognitive function.

The research has revealed a significant link between certain metabolites—substances generated during the breakdown of food—and cognitive function across a diverse range of races and ethnicities.

This study underscores the power of metabolomic profiling, which examines thousands of metabolites within blood samples, as a tool for discovering biomarkers associated with health changes and diseases.

Metabolite-Cognitive Function Associations

Previous research conducted in Boston focused on older adults of Puerto Rican descent and identified several metabolites associated with cognitive function.

Building on these findings, the current study investigated the associations between metabolites and cognitive function in a cohort of 2,222 U.S. Hispanic/Latinx adults, as well as in 1,365 Europeans and 478 African Americans.

Causal Associations and Diet

The researchers also explored causal connections between metabolites, cognitive function, and diet, particularly the Mediterranean diet.

Six metabolites consistently emerged as being linked to lower cognitive function across all study populations. Four of these metabolites were sugars or sugar derivatives.

Conversely, one metabolite, beta-cryptoxanthin, was associated with higher cognitive function in Hispanic/Latinx adults and had a strong correlation with fruit consumption.

Metabolites as Biomarkers

The study suggests that these metabolites may serve as biomarkers, potentially indicating a direct link between dietary choices and cognitive function.

Diet is a significant source of various metabolites, some of which can either positively or negatively affect cognitive function.

Furthermore, the researchers discovered that adherence to the Mediterranean diet score was connected to higher levels of beta-cryptoxanthin, which in turn was positively associated with cognitive function.

Conversely, the Mediterranean diet was negatively linked to the levels of other metabolites, which were associated with lower cognitive function.

Reinforcing Previous Research

Previous studies have also demonstrated the cognitive benefits of adhering to the Mediterranean diet.

The researchers propose that future investigations should explore metabolite associations with cognitive function more comprehensively and determine whether observed connections indeed indicate that dietary changes, resulting in alterations in metabolite levels, can enhance cognitive health.


This study highlights the intricate relationship between dietary choices, metabolites, and cognitive function. It emphasizes the potential of metabolomic profiling to identify biomarkers associated with health and disease.

As we continue to unravel the complexities of nutrition’s impact on cognitive health, this research offers valuable insights into the role of specific metabolites in brain function and the importance of diet in cognitive well-being.

For those interested in nutrition, recent studies have explored the connection between certain meats and increased risk of high blood pressure and the potential of a specific diet to prevent memory loss and dementia.

Additionally, research has delved into the benefits of vitamins in mitigating complications in diabetes and the potential advantages of vitamin D for men with advanced cancer.

The study was conducted by Tamar Sofer et al. and was published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

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