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Copyright 2013 Natural Standard (
May 2012

Fatty Diets May Affect Brain Function

People who eat diets high in saturated fat may have an increased risk of developing memory problems, a new study reports.

Researchers collected dietary information from 6,183 older participants in the Women's Health Study, all of whom had been tested continuously for cognitive function over a period of four years. The tests assessed several aspects of the subjects' brain function, including verbal memory.

The results linked higher saturated fat intake to poorer brain function and memory, while consumption of healthy fats was associated with better memory.

According to the authors, these findings suggest that healthier diets with lower levels of saturated fat may help older adults maintain good brain function and memory. However, more evidence is needed before further conclusions can be made.

Cognitive function, also called cognitive performance or cognition, refers to the ability of an individual to think, process, and store information in order to solve problems. Humans are the only organisms capable of cognition.

Cognitive disorders are characterized by delirium, dementia and/or amnesia. Delirium is a term used to describe a confused mental state in which a patient has difficulty processing and interpreting information. Dementia is the loss of mental ability that is so severe that it interferes with daily functioning. Amnesia may cause difficulty remembering previously learned information. Patients with cognitive disorders may experience one or more of these symptoms.

Treatment for cognitive disorders depends on the underlying cause. Most disorders are incurable and some may have devastating effects. For instance, Alzheimer's disease eventually leads to complete cognitive impairment. Treatment may help delay progression of such disorders. Other disorders, such as age-associated memory impairment may only cause mild symptoms.

For more information about cognitive decline, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions Database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
  2. Okereke OI, Rosner BA, Kim DH, et al. Dietary fat types and 4-year cognitive change in community-dwelling older women.Ann Neurol. 2012 Mar 29. doi: 10.1002/ana.23593. View Abstract
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