Self-reported diet quality differentiates nutrient intake, blood nutrient status, mood, and cognition: Implications for identifying nutritional neurocognitive risk factors in middle age

Lauren M. Young, Sarah Gauci, Andrew Scholey, David J. White, Annie Claude Lassemillante, Denny Meyer, Andrew Pipingas

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Evidence for diet quality representing a modifiable risk factor for age-related cognitive decline and mood disturbances has typically come from retrospective, cross-sectional analyses. Here a diet screening tool (DST) was used to categorize healthy middle-aged volunteers (n = 141, 40–65 years) into “optimal” or “sub-optimal” diet groups to investigate cross-sectional associations between diet quality, cognitive function, and mood. The DST distinguished levels of nutrient intake as assessed by Automated Self-Administered 24-h dietary recall and nutrient status, as assessed by blood biomarker measures. Compared with the “sub-optimal” group, the “optimal” diet group showed significantly higher intake of vitamin E (p = 0.007), magnesium (p = 0.001), zinc (p = 0.043) and fiber (p = 0.015), higher circulating levels of vitamin B6 (p = 0.030) and red blood cell folate (p = 0.026) and lower saturated fatty acids (p = 0.012). Regarding psychological outcomes, the “optimal” diet group had significantly better Stroop processing than those with a “sub-optimal” diet (p = 0.013). Regression analysis revealed that higher DST scores were associated with fewer mood disturbances (p = 0.002) and lower perceived stress (p = 0.031), although these differences were not significant when comparing “optimal” versus “sub-optimal” as discrete groups. This study demonstrates the potential of a 20-item diet screen to identify both nutritional and psychological status in an Australian setting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2964
Number of pages20
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognition
  • Diet quality
  • Diet screening
  • Middle-aged adults
  • Mood
  • Nutrient intake
  • Nutrient status
  • Nutritional risk
  • Stress

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