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Abstract: Background: Recent meta-analyses confirm a relationship between diet quality and both depression and cognitive health in adults. While the biological pathways that underpin these relationships are likely multitudinous, extensive evidence from animal studies points to the involvement of the hippocampus. The aim of this study was to examine the association between dietary patterns and hippocampal volume in humans, and to assess whether diet was associated with differential rates of hippocampal atrophy over time.

Methods: Data were drawn from the Personality and Total Health (PATH) Through Life Study and focused on a subsample of the cohort (n=255) who were aged 60-64 years at baseline in 2001, completed a food frequency questionnaire, and underwent two MRI scans approximately four years apart. Longitudinal Generalized Estimating Equation (GEE) linear regression models were used to assess the association between dietary factors and left and right hippocampal volumes over time.

Results: Every one standard deviation increase in healthy 'prudent' dietary pattern was associated with a 45.7mm3 (SE 22.9) larger left hippocampal volume, while higher consumption of an unhealthy 'western' dietary pattern was (independently) associated with a 52.6mm3 (SE 26.6) smaller left hippocampal volume. These relationships were independent of covariates including age, gender, education, labor-force status, depressive symptoms and medication, physical activity, smoking, hypertension and diabetes. While hippocampal volume declined over time, there was no evidence that dietary patterns influenced this decline. No relationships were observed between dietary patterns and right hippocampal volume.

Conclusions: Lower intakes of nutrient-dense foods and higher intakes of unhealthy foods are each independently associated with smaller left hippocampal volume. To our knowledge, this is the first human study to demonstrate associations between diet and hippocampal volume concordant with data previously observed in animal models.

To cite this article: Jacka, Felice N; Cherbuin, Nicolas; Anstey, Kaarin J; Sachdev, Perminder and Butterworth, Peter. Western diet is associated with a smaller hippocampus: A longitudinal investigation [online]. Journal of the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, Vol. 35, No. 3, Dec 2016: 11-17. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=584738348250429;res=IELHEA> ISSN: 1328-8040. [cited 23 Mar 17].

Personal Author: Jacka, Felice N; Cherbuin, Nicolas; Anstey, Kaarin J; Sachdev, Perminder; Butterworth, Peter; Source: Journal of the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, Vol. 35, No. 3, Dec 2016: 11-17 DOI: Document Type: Journal Article ISSN: 1328-8040 Subject: Hippocampus (Brain); Neurotrophic functions; Magnetic resonance imaging; Developmental neurobiology; Diet--Nutritional aspects; Peer Reviewed: Yes Affiliation: (1) Division of Nutritional Psychiatry Research, IMPACT Strategic Research Centre, Deakin University, Geelong, and Department of Psychiatry, The University of Melbourne, and Centre for Adolescent Health, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Melbourne, and Black Dog Institute, Sydney, Australia
(2) Centre for Research on Ageing, Health and Wellbeing, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
(3) Centre for Research on Ageing, Health and Wellbeing, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
(4) Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA), School of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
(5) Centre for Research on Ageing, Health and Wellbeing, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

Database: Health Collection