Metabolomics and cognition in African American adults in midlife: the atherosclerosis risk in communities study

J. Bressler, B. Yu, T. H. Mosley, D. S. Knopman, R. F. Gottesman, A. Alonso, A. R. Sharrett, L. M. Wruck, E. Boerwinkle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Clinical studies have shown alterations in metabolic profiles when patients with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease dementia were compared to cognitively normal subjects. Associations between 204 serum metabolites measured at baseline (1987–1989) and cognitive change were investigated in 1035 middle-aged community-dwelling African American participants in the biracial Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. Cognition was evaluated using the Delayed Word Recall Test (DWRT; verbal memory), the Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST; processing speed) and the Word Fluency Test (WFT; verbal fluency) at visits 2 (1990–1992) and 4 (1996–1998). In addition, Cox regression was used to analyze the metabolites as predictors of incident hospitalized dementia between baseline and 2011. There were 141 cases among 1534 participants over a median 17.1-year follow-up period. After adjustment for established risk factors, one standard deviation increase in N-acetyl-1-methylhistidine was significantly associated with greater 6-year change in DWRT scores (β = − 0.66 words; P = 3.65 × 10− 4). Two metabolites (one unnamed and a long-chain omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid found in vegetable oils (docosapentaenoate (DPA, 22:5 n-6)) were significantly associated with less decline on the DSST (DPA: β = 1.25 digit-symbol pairs, P = 9.47 × 10− 5). Two unnamed compounds and three sex steroid hormones were associated with an increased risk of dementia (all Po3.9 × 10− 4). The association of 4-androstene-3beta, 17beta-diol disulfate 1 with dementia was replicated in European Americans. These results demonstrate that screening the metabolome in midlife can detect biologically plausible biomarkers that may improve risk stratification for cognitive impairment at older ages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1173
JournalTranslational psychiatry
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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