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Nutrition research in cognitive impairment/dementia, with a focus on soya and folate.

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posted on 2017-12-01, 13:48 authored by Eef HogervorstEef Hogervorst, Shelina Kassam, A. Kridawati, Mira Soni, Xu Xin, Xiao Shifu, T.B. Rahardjo
Observational studies and treatment trials investigating nutrition and cognitive function, with a focus on folate and soya and dementia, were reviewed. Data suggested that effects of folic acid based interventions may only be shown before cognitive decline is evident and/or if people are folate deficient. In older people in Indonesia, Hawai'i and China, tofu, which can contain high levels of phytoestrogens, was found to increase dementia risk. This association was not mediated by a vegetarian diet, socioeconomic status, formaldehyde, thyroid function, or loss of teeth. On the other hand, human observational and animal treatment studies suggested that tempe, a fermented soya product containing phytoestrogens and folate, reduced dementia risk and improved memory. High oestrogen levels were found to increase dementia risk in older women. However, in women with adequate serum folate, high oestrogen levels did not confer additional dementia risk and may protect ageing neurons. In conclusion, reviews seem to suggest that folic acid interventions are only effective on cognitive outcomes in people who are folate deficient and do not have cognitive impairment. Frequent consumption of tofu may have detrimental effects on memory and increase dementia risk in older East Asian people, while tempe may reduce these risks. Possibly folate in tempe offsets the potential negative effects of oestrogenic compounds on ageing neurons.


This work was supported with grants from MRC, NIHR/ESRC, ARUK, NDA, British Council. This paper was presented at The Joint Winter Meeting between the Nutrition Society and the Royal Society of Medicine held at The Royal Society of Medicine, London on 6–7 December 2016 Conference on ‘Diet, nutrition and mental health and wellbeing’ Symposium 1: Nutrition and brain function: how strong is the evidence?



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

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Proc Nutr Soc






437 - 442


Hogervorst, E. ...et al., 2017. Nutrition research in cognitive impairment/dementia, with a focus on soya and folate.. England, Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 76(4), pp. 437-442.


© The Authors. Published by Cambridge University Press.


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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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This article has been published in a revised form in Proceedings of the Nutrition Society https://doi.org/10.1017/S0029665117000404]. This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. © copyright holder.



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