January 25/Rochester, Minn./States News Service -- Mayo Clinic researchers found that the prevalence of mild cognitive impairment decreased with an increase in the consumption of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Monounsaturated fatty acids are commonly found in olive oil and canola oils, and polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids, are commonly found in most varieties of nuts, seeds and fish. This study was published in the September issue of Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Mild cognitive impairment is an intermediate state between normal cognitive aging and dementia. Individuals with mild cognitive impairment can function reasonably well in everyday activities but may have difficulty remembering details of recent conversations, events and upcoming appointments, or in planning and making decisions. Most (but not all) patients with mild cognitive impairment develop a progressive decline in their thinking abilities over time. Alzheimer's disease is usually the underlying cause, but some patients may progress to other types of dementias.

"It is important that we understand the link between monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids and its effect on mild cognitive impairment," says Rosebud Roberts, M.B.Ch.B., a Mayo Clinic epidemiologist. "Our findings suggest that the higher intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in contrast to saturated fatty acids may have a role in reducing the risk of mild cognitive impairment and, ultimately, of dementia."

This research is part of the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, a study of over 2,000 participants from Olmsted County, Minn., who were 70-89 years old on Oct. 1, 2004. Over 1,200 participants completed a 128-item food frequency questionnaire and reported their food intake within the last year. According to Roberts, they were specifically asked about fats used in cooking, bread and potatoes, and their milk fat preference, in addition to other dietary intakes.

"The association of these fatty acids with mild cognitive impairment in the present study is not definitive. However, additional studies with these individuals will provide more definitive evidence on the role of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in reducing the risk of mild cognitive impairment and the implications for reducing the risk of dementia," says Roberts.

From the February 7, 2011, Prepared Foods E-dition