Aging Research Center, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm University, Tomtebodavägen 18A Floor 10, SE-171 65, Solna, Stockholm, Sweden; Institute of Biomedical Technologies - National Research Council, Via Fratelli Cervi 93, 20090, Segrate, Milan, Italy. Electronic address: [Email]
Optimal nutrition may play a beneficial role in maintaining a healthy brain. However, the relationship between nutrient intake and brain integrity is largely unknown. We investigated the association of specific nutrient dietary patterns with structural characteristics of the brain. Within the population-based Swedish National study on Aging and Care-Kungsholmen (SNAC-K), a cross-sectional study of 417 dementia-free participants aged ≥60 years who underwent structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans during 2001-2003, was carried-out. Data on dietary intake were collected using a food frequency questionnaire, from which intake of 21 nutrients was estimated. By principal component analysis, five nutrient patterns were extracted: (1) NP1 was characterized by fiber, vitamin C, E, β-carotene, and folate [Fiber&Antioxidants], (2) NP2 by eicosapentaenoic (EPA, 20:5 ω-3) and docosahexaenoic (DHA, 22:6 ω-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), proteins, cholesterol, vitamin B3, B12, and D [long chain (LC) ω-3PUFAs&Proteins], (3) NP3 by α-linoleic (18:2 ω-6) and α-linolenic (18:3 ω-3) PUFAs, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), and vitamin E [MUFAs&ω-3,6PUFAs], (4) NP4 by saturated fatty acids (SFAs), trans fats, MUFAs, and cholesterol [SFAs&Trans fats], (5) NP5 by B-vitamins, retinol, and proteins [B-Vitamins&Retinol]. Nutrient patterns scores were tertiled with the lowest tertile as reference, and were related to total brain volume (TBV) and white matter hyperintensities volume (WMHV) using linear regression models adjusting for potential confounders. In the multi-adjusted model, compared to the lowest intake for each pattern, the highest intake of NP1 (β = 11.11, P = 0.009), NP2 (β = 7.47, P = 0.052), and NP3 (β = 10.54, P = 0.005) was associated with larger TBV whereas NP5 was related to smaller TBV (β = -12.82, P = 0.001). The highest intake of NP1 was associated with lower WMHV (β = -0.32, P = 0.049), whereas NP4 was associated with greater WMHV (β = 0.31, P = 0.036). In sum, our results suggest that the identified brain-health specific nutrient combinations characterized by higher intake of fruit, vegetables, legumes, olive and seed oils, fish, lean red meat, poultry and low in milk and dairy products, cream, butter, processed meat and offal, were strongly associated with greater brain integrity among older adults.