Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Food, Nutrition, and Culinary Science

Committee Chair/Advisor

Cason, Katherine L

Committee Member

Dye, Cheryl J

Committee Member

Haley-Zitlin, Vivian


Older adults are among the fastest-growing segment of the world's population. In Costa Rica, life expectancy is comparable to developed countries, such as the United States and Western European countries. The loss of cognitive capacity is one of the most significant issues affecting the quality of life of older adults and their families. Although the causes of cognitive decline remain uncertain, it has been linked to cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure. Dietary fatty acids have an important role in these conditions, making it is plausible that they could play a role in cognitive deterioration
The purpose of this research is to examine the association among fatty acid intake, lipid profile, and cognitive health in Costa Rican elders. To examine these issues, a cross-sectional secondary data analysis was performed using public data from the Costa Rican Longevity and Healthy Aging Study, a nationally representative longitudinal survey of health and socioeconomic indicators of Costa Rican residents ages 60 and over in 2005 (n=2878). All data and specimens in the study were collected at the participants' homes, usually during two visits. Diet information was collected using a semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire. Cognitive disability was assessed with an adaptation of the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). Participants who answered the 15 items with fewer than 75% correct answers were considered to be 'cognitively impaired.' Serum lipid analyses were conducted by nationally certified laboratories. General characteristics between cognitively disabled and non-cognitively disabled participants were explored using descriptive statistics. Regression models were controlled for age, caloric intake, and lipid medication.
The study found highly significant differences between cognitively disabled and non-cognitively disabled older adults. The demographic data indicated that adults with less than 75% accuracy on the MMSE were younger, had lower monthly income, and had completed fewer years of formal education. Important differences were also found in the health profile. Medical diagnoses of diabetes, stroke, and heart attack were significantly higher among the cognitively disabled. Non-cognitively disabled adults had a higher rate of medical diagnosis of dyslipidemia and presented a higher rate of metabolic syndrome. Anthropometric data confirmed that cognitively disabled elders had a lower BMI, lower body weight, and higher percentage of underweight. The dietary analysis revealed a lower energy, total fat, and monounsaturated fatty acids intake compared to their counterparts. The lipid profile from adults who were not cognitively disabled indicated significantly higher levels of LDL, triacylglycerides, and total cholesterol. The multiple regression analysis suggested a significant (p Differences in Costa Rican elders' demographic, health, and diet characteristics were found between cognitively disabled individuals and those not disabled. Dietary fat intake and serum lipid profile were weakly associated with cognitive outcomes. Further research, particularly longitudinal studies, are needed to better examine this relationship.

Included in

Nutrition Commons



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