Intake of vegetables and fruits through young adulthood is associated with better cognitive function in midlife in the US general population

Xuanxia Mao, Cheng Chen, Pengcheng Xun, Martha L. Daviglus, Lyn M. Steffen, David R. Jacobs, Linda Van Horn, Stephen Sidney, Na Zhu, Bo Qin, Ka He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Vegetables and fruits (VF) may differentially affect cognitive functions, presumably due to their various nutrient contents, but evidence from epidemiologic studies is limited.

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to examine the long-term association between VF intakes, including VF subgroups, in young adulthood and cognitive function in midlife.

METHODS: A biracial cohort of 3231 men and women aged 18-30 y at baseline in 1985-1986 were followed up for 25 y in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study. Diet was measured at baseline, and in examination years 7 and 20. Cognitive function was assessed at examination year 25 through the use of 3 tests: the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT), the Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST), and the Stroop test. The mean differences (MDs) with 95% CIs in cognitive scores across intake categories were estimated through the use of the multivariable-adjusted general linear regression model.

RESULTS: Excluding potatoes, intake of whole vegetables was significantly associated with a better cognitive performance after adjustment for potential confounders in all 3 cognitive tests (quintile 5 compared with quintile 1-RAVLT, MD: 0.33; 95% CI: 0.01, 0.64; P-trend = 0.08; DSST, MD: 2.84; 95% CI: 0.93, 4.75; P-trend < 0.01; Stroop test, MD: -2.87; 95% CI: -4.24, -1.50; P-trend < 0.01]. Similarly, intake of fruits, except fruit juices, was significantly related to a better cognitive performance (quintile 5 compared with quintile 1-DSST, MD: 2.41; 95% CI: 0.70, 4.12; P-trend = 0.03).

CONCLUSIONS: This study supports the long-term benefits of VF consumption on cognitive performance, except those VF with relatively low fiber content such as potatoes and fruit juices, among the middle-aged US general population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1424-1433
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study is supported by grants from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)in collaboration with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (HHSN268201300025C and HHSN268201300026C), Northwestern University (HHSN268201300027C), University of Minnesota (HHSN268201300028C), Kaiser Foundation Research Institute (HHSN268201300029C), and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (HHSN268200900041C). CARDIA is also partially supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and an intra-agency agreement between NIA and NHLBI(grant AG0005). This study is partially supported by the NIH grants (R01DK116603 and R01AG056111). Representatives of the funding agency have been involved in the review of the manuscript but not directly involved in the collection, management, analysis, or interpretation of the data. Author disclosures: none of the authors declared a conflict of interest. Supplemental Table 1 is available from the “Supplementary data” link in the online posting of the article and from the same link in the online table of contents at XM and CC are joint first authors. Address correspondence to KH (e-mail: Abbreviations used: CARDIA, Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study; DSST, Digit Symbol Substitution Test; MD, mean difference; RAVLT, Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test; VF, vegetables and fruits.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright American Society for Nutrition 2019.


  • CARDIA study
  • cognitive function
  • dietary fiber
  • fruits
  • longitudinal study
  • vegetables

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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