Measures of MRI Brain Biomarkers in Middle Age According to Average Modified Mediterranean Diet Scores Throughout Young and Middle Adulthood

Zeinah Al-Darsani, David R. Jacobs, R. Nick Bryan, Lenore J. Launer, Lyn M. Steffen, Kristine Yaffe, James M. Shikany, Andrew O. Odegaard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: The Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) has been linked with better cognitive function and brain integrity. OBJECTIVE: To examine the association of modified Mediterranean diet (mMedDiet) scores from early through middle adulthood in relation to volumetric and microstructural midlife MRI brain measures. Assess the association of mMedDiet and brain measures with four cognitive domains. If variables are correlated, determine if brain measures mediate the relationship between mMedDiet and cognition. METHODS: 618 participants (mean age 25.4±3.5 at year 0) of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study were included. Cumulative average mMedDiet scores were calculated by averaging scores from years 0, 7, and 20. MRI scans were obtained at years 25 and 30. General linear models were used to examine the association between mMedDiet and brain measures. RESULTS: Higher cumulative average mMedDiet scores were associated with better microstructural white matter (WM) integrity measured by fractional anisotropy (FA) at years 25 and 30 (all ptrend <0.05). Higher mMedDiet scores at year 7 were associated with higher WM FA at year 25 (β= 0.003, ptrend = 0.03). Higher mMedDiet scores at year 20 associated with higher WM FA at years 25 (β= 0.0005, ptrend = 0.002) and 30 (β= 0.0003, ptrend = 0.02). mMedDiet scores were not associated with brain volumes. Higher mMedDiet scores and WM FA were both correlated with better executive function, processing speed, and global cognition (all ptrend <0.05). WM FA did not mediate the association between mMedDiet scores and cognition. CONCLUSIONS: mMedDiet scores may be associated with microstructural WM integrity at midlife.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-121
Number of pages13
JournalNutrition and Healthy Aging
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 - The authors. Published by IOS Press.


  • MRI
  • Mediterranean diet
  • biomarkers
  • cognition
  • life course
  • midlife

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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