Gut Microbiota and Subjective Memory Complaints in Older Women

Fen Wu, Samuel Davey, Tess V. Clendenen, Karen L. Koenig, Yelena Afanasyeva, Boyan Zhou, Sukhleen Bedi, Huilin Li, Anne Zeleniuch-Jacquotte, Yu Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Epidemiological studies that investigate alterations in gut microbial composition associated with cognitive dysfunction are limited. Objective: To examine the association between the gut microbiota and subjective memory complaints (SMCs), a self-reported, validated indicator of cognitive dysfunction. Methods: In this cross-sectional study of 95 older women selected from the New York University Women's Health Study (NYUWHS), we characterized the gut microbial composition using 16S rRNA gene sequencing. We estimated odds ratio (OR) from beta regression which approximates the ratio of mean relative abundances of individual bacterial taxon from phylum to genus levels by binary (2+ versus < 2) and continuous SMCs. Results: Women reporting 2 or more SMCs had higher relative abundances of genus Holdemania and family Desulfovibrionaceae compared with those reporting one or no complaint. Compared with women with < 2 SMCs, the relative abundances of Holdemania and family Desulfovibrionaceae were 2.09 times (OR: 2.09, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.38-3.17) and 2.10 times (OR: 2.10, 95% CI: 1.43-3.09) higher in women with 2+ SMCs, respectively (false discovery rate (FDR)-adjusted p = 0.038 and 0.010, respectively). A dose-response association was observed for genus Sutterella and family Desulfovibrionaceae. Every one-unit increase in SMCs was associated with 25% and 27% higher relative abundances of Sutterella (OR: 1.25; 95% CI: 1.11-1.40) and Desulfovibrionaceae (OR: 1.27; 95% CI: 1.13-1.42), respectively (FDR-adjusted p = 0.018 and 0.006, respectively). Conclusion: Our findings support an association between alterations in the gut bacterial composition and cognitive dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-262
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • 16S RNA gene sequencing
  • cross-sectional
  • gut microbiota
  • subjective memory complaints

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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