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

Eef Hogervorst, Shelina Kassam, Atik Kridawati, Mira Soni, Xu Xin, Xiao Shifu, Tri Budi Rahardjo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-442
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Nutrition Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • Dementia
  • Folate
  • Memory
  • Phytoestrogen
  • Soya


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