Association between nutrition and cognition in a multi-ethnic cohort from Singapore

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



European journal of nutrition








Alternative healthy eating index; Cognition; Cognitive impairment; Diet; Multiethnic cohort


BACKGROUND: Nutrition, a modifiable risk factor, presents a low-cost prevention strategy to reduce the burden of cognitive impairment and dementia. However, studies examining the effects of dietary patterns on cognition are lacking in multi-ethnic Asian populations. We investigate the association between diet quality, measured with the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI)-2010, and cognitive impairment in middle-aged and older adults of different ethnicities (Chinese, Malay, Indian) in Singapore. METHODS: This cross-sectional study (n = 3138; mean age: 50.4 ± 9.8, 58.4% women) was based on data from the Singapore Multi-Ethnic Cohort. Dietary intake collected with a validated semi-quantitative Food Frequency Questionnaire was converted into AHEI-2010 scores. Cognition, assessed with the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), was analysed as a continuous or binary outcome (cognitively impaired or not, using cut-offs of ≥ 24, 26 or 28 for no education, primary school education and secondary school education and above). Multivariable linear and logistic regression models were used to examine associations between AHEI-2010 and cognition, adjusting for covariates. RESULTS: A total of 988 (31.5%) participants had cognitive impairment. Higher AHEI-2010 scores were significantly associated with higher MMSE scores [β = 0.44; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.22-0.67 highest vs. lowest quartile; p-trend < 0.001] and lower odds of cognitive impairment [OR 0.69; 95% CI 0.54-0.88; p-trend = 0.01] after adjusting for all the covariates. No significant associations were observed for individual dietary components of the AHEI-2010 with MMSE or cognitive impairment. CONCLUSION: Healthier dietary patterns were associated with better cognitive function in middle-aged and older Singaporeans. These findings could inform better support to promote healthier dietary patterns in Asian populations.


Exercise and Nutrition Sciences