Accumulating evidence in the nutritional sciences demonstrates that meat consumption may have favorable effects of cognitive and brain health, with recent reports indicating that: (i) increased poultry intake may reduce the risk of cognitive decline; (ii) meat consumption may be associated with higher general intelligence; and (iii) higher red meat intake may be associated with lower risk of memory impairments (2020, Nutrients, Meat Consumption, Cognitive Function and Disorders: A Systematic Review with Narrative Synthesis and Meta-Analysis, Zhang et al.; 2021, Nature Scientific Reports, Diet and general cognitive ability in the UK Biobank dataset, Hepsomali & Groeger). Despite the promise of these findings for the National Pork Board, these studies fail to distinguish lean pork from other dietary sources of protein, and therefore motivate the need for greater precision in characterizing the link between lean pork consumption and measures of cognitive performance and brain health.

The present study examined this issue by applying interdisciplinary methods in nutritional cognitive neuroscience to derive dietary and nutrient biomarker phenotypes of pork consumption and to examine their association with measures of cognitive performance and functional brain network efficiency. Our findings provide novel evidence that lean pork consumption is associated with functional efficiency within the visual and ventral attentional networks, motivating the design of randomized controlled trials to establish the role of lean pork consumption in cognitive performance and brain health.