Association of Pork Intake with Cognitive Performance in Older Adults Enrolled in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2011-2014 Data Cycles

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD




Alzheimer’s disease; cognition; nutrition surveys; pork meat; red meat


BACKGROUND: Pork provides higher levels of several nutrients important for cognitive maintenance in older adults. A pilot clinical study suggests the addition of moderate amounts of pork to a Mediterranean-style diet improves cognition in older adults. There is an absence of observational research that isolates effects of pork from other red meats. OBJECTIVE: To examine the relationship of pork intake on cognitive performance in older adults. METHODS: Cross-sectional data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2011-2014 cycles were used in these analyses. Pork intake was assessed using data from two non-consecutive 24-h dietary recalls. Cognitive function was assessed by the Consortium to Establish a Registry for Alzheimer's Disease (CERAD) Word Learning, CERAD Delayed Recall, Animal Fluency, and Digital Substitution tests. Statistical analyses were adjusted for sample weighting and survey design variables to account for the complex design. Student t-tests (continuous variables) and Pearson chi-squared tests (categorical variables) were employed to compare participant characteristics between the low and normal cognitive performance groups. Logistic regression was used to determine the relationship of pork intake (low, medium, and high) with prevalence of low cognitive performance, with the non-consumer group as the referent category. RESULTS: Pork intake was not beneficially or detrimentally associated performance on the any of the cognitive tests in both the crude and multivariate models (p > 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Prospective cohort investigations and larger/longer-term clinical trials are needed to fully elucidate effects of pork intake on cognition in older adults.


Clinical Research and Leadership