Brain Aging and Tofu

Brain Aging and Midlife Tofu Consumption

Lon R.White, MD, MPH, Helen Petrovitch, MD, G. Webster Ross, MD, Kamal Masaki, MD, John Hardman, MD, James Nelson, MD, Daron Davis, MD, and William Markesbery, MD

National Institute on Aging, NIH (L.W., formerly), the Pacific Health Research Institute (L.W., H.P.), University of Hawaii at Manoa (L.W., H.P., G.W.R., K.M., J.H.), the Department of Veterans Affairs, Honolulu (L.W., G.W.R.), Kuakini Medical Center, Honolulu (H.P., K.M.) Hawaii, Louisiana State University (J.N.), Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the University of Kentucky (D.D.,W.M.), Lexington, Kentucky

Objective: To examine associations of midlife tofu consumption with brain function and structural changes in late life.

Methods: The design utilized surviving participants of a longitudinal study established in 1965 for research on heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Information on consumption of selected foods was available from standardized interviews conducted 1965-67 and 1971-74. A 4-level composite intake index defined “low-low” consumption as fewer than two servings of tofu per week in 1965 and no tofu in the prior week in 1971. Men who reported 2 or more servings per week at both interviews were defined as “high-high” consumers. Intermediate or less consistent “low” and “high” consumption levels were also defined. Cognitive functioning was tested at the 1991-1993 examination, when participants were aged 71 to 93 years (n=3734). Brain atrophy was assessed using neuroimage (n=574) and autopsy (n=290) information. Cognitive function data were also analyzed for wives of a sample of study participants (n=502) who had been living with the participants at the time of their dietary interviews.

Results: Poor cognitive test performance, enlargement of ventricles and low brain weight were each significantly and independently associated with higher midlife tofu consumption. A similar association of midlife tofu intake with poor late life cognitive test scores was also observed among wives of cohort members, using the husband’s answers to food frequency questions as proxy for the wife’s consumption. Statistically significant associations were consistently demonstrated in linear and logistic multivariate regression models. Odds ratios comparing endpoints among “high-high” with “low-low” consumers were mostly in the range of 1.6 to 2. 0.

Conclusions: In this population, higher midlife tofu consumption was independently associated with indicators of cognitive impairment and brain atrophy in late life.

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