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2021 Alzheimer's Association Research Grant (AARG)

Diet and Cognition in Older Diverse Men and Women

How dietary choices influence cognition of older adults from different races and ethnicities?

Puja Agarwal, Ph.D.
Rush University Medical Center
Chicago, IL - United States


According to the 2021 Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures report, older Black/African American individuals are twice as likely and Hispanic/Latino individuals about one and one-half times as likely to develop dementia as older white individuals.

Many researchers believe that there is not a single cause of Alzheimer’s but rather it develops over time as a result of multiple factors such as lifestyle, environment and genetics. Studies show that nutrition may impact brain function and activity as well as the lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s in later life. However, in the past, most studies have included primarily only white participants, whereas diverse communities not represented in these studies, including Black/African American communities and Hispanic/Latino communities may have diets reflective of their community and/or cultural differences. Furthermore, dietary choices may differ between women and men within the community. 

Dr. Puja Agarwal believes that the differences reveal the need for dietary plans that could be beneficial to the brain as well as that takes into account the lifestyles and cultures of communities that have not been included in past studies in dementia research.   

Research Plan

Dr. Agarwal and colleagues will study potential links between diet and cognition (brain function) among men and women. For this effort, the research team will leverage long-term dietary and medical records of 7,000 participants from the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP), a large study of aging in diverse communities. The researchers will examine how potential associations with certain nutrients (including vitamins and fats), food groups (including vegetables, nuts and poultry) and dietary plans with cognition and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s may vary by race and sex. Finally, the researchers will also explore whether race and sex-specific dietary patterns may impact the rate (slower versus faster) of cognitive decline in the participants.


The study results may provide a better understanding of how a person’s nutrition across their lifespan may impact cognition in men and women as they age from different races and ethnicities. If successful, the findings may be used to develop a comprehensive, lifestyle-based approach for addressing risk reduction strategies for all communities.

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