Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Ross Andel

Co-Major Professor

Cathy McEvoy


aging, dementia, diabetes, diet, sugar



Consumption of foods high in sugar content has been linked with the development of metabolic abnormalities such as cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes, major sources of global health concerns. Although the detrimental consequences of high intake of sugar on abnormal metabolic processes are established, it is not known how this association affects (or accelerates) cognitive aging.

The current project was based on data from the Swedish Adoption/Twin Study of Aging (SATSA) to test the hypothesis that high refined sugar intake contributes to accelerated trajectories of cognitive decline assessed longitudinally. Trajectories of cognitive change were assessed as a function of age, thereby allowing for the observation of changes in cognitive performance across the entire age distribution of the sample. Analyses also accounted for the influences of clinically relevant factors such as cardiovascular health and clinical depression on the relationship between high sugar intake and cognitive aging.

Results showed that high sugar consumption was significantly related to lower overall cognitive performance on tests of verbal ability, spatial ability, memory, and perceptual speed compared to low consumption, but there were no significant differences with respect to cognitive change over time. Findings provide unique insight into the potential for dietary sugar to produce decrements in cognitive functioning in older adults.