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Habitual sugar intake and cognitive impairment among multi-ethnic Malaysian older adults

Authors Chong CP, Shahar S, Haron H, Din NC

Received 8 April 2019

Accepted for publication 21 June 2019

Published 22 July 2019 Volume 2019:14 Pages 1331—1342


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Walker

CP Chong,1 S Shahar,1 H Haron,1 N Che Din2

1Centre for Healthy Aging and Wellness, Faculty of Health Sciences, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Jalan Pahang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; 2Psychology Program, Faculty of Health Sciences, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Jalan Pahang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Background: Sugar is widely consumed in Malaysia, and the excessive intake of sugar has been associated with cognitive functions. However, the association between sugar intake and cognitive impairment among Malaysian older adults is yet to be determined.
Purpose: The objective of this study was to evaluate the associations between types and sources of sugar intake and cognitive functions and to identify their risk in predicting cognitive impairment (MMSE score <24).
Subjects and methods: A total of 1,209 subjects aged ≥60 years were recruited through multi-stage random sampling from selected states in Malaysia. Dietary intake was derived using a 7-day dietary history questionnaire and supplemented with a quantitative food frequency questionnaire for added sugar intake.
Results: The prevalence of cognitive impairment as defined by Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) less than 24 was 31.9%, while the prevalence of mild cognitiveimpairment was 13.1%. The median (IQR) for total sugar intake was 44.60 g/day (26.21–68.81) or 8 tsp, and free sugar intake was 33.08 g/day (17.48–57.26) or 6 tsp. The higher intake of total sugars, free sugars, sucrose, lactose, sugar-sweetened beverages, sugar-sweetened cakes, and dessert was found to be significantly associated with a lower MMSE score, after adjusting for covariates. On the other hand, the consumption of cooked dishes and fruits was significantly associated with a better MMSE score. The adjusted OR for risk of cognitive impairment (MMSE score <24) was 3.30 (95% CI 2.15–5.08) for total sugars and 3.58 (95% CI 2.32–5.52) for free sugars, comparing the highest with the lowest intake percentiles.
Conclusion: Excessive sugar consumption among older adults showed a notable association with poor cognitive functions, but longitudinal studies and clinical trials are further needed to clarify the direction of causality and to investigate the underlying mechanism.

Keywords: sugar intake, free sugar, sucrose, cognitive functions, older adults

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