Race, genetic admixture and cognitive performance in the Cuban population

Background: Population aging will lead to a dramatic increase in dementia prevalence, which will disproportionally affect racial minorities. The presence of racial differences in dementia prevalence has been widely reported in United States, but there are no relevant studies on this topic in low-middle income countries (LMIC).

Methods: In a cross-sectional survey, 2,944 older Cubans were recruited at a community-based level aimed to identify the effects of self-identified race and genetic admixture on cognitive performance. Dementia diagnosis was established using 10/66 Dementia and DSM-IV criteria. APOE-ε4 genotype was determined in 2,511 (85%) and genetic admixture was completed for all dementia cases and in a randomly selected sample of cognitive healthy participants (218 dementia cases and 367 participants without dementia).

Results: The overall prevalence of dementia was 8.7%, without large or statistically significant differences on dementia prevalence (p=0.12) by self-identified race. Mean cognitive scores were similar across racial groups (p=0.46). After controlling for age, sex and education, greater proportion of African ancestry was not associated with cognitive performance (p=0.17).

Conclusions: We found no evidence of an independent effect of self-identified race and/or population ancestry on dementia prevalence or cognitive performance. This suggests that observed differences in dementia prevalence among diverse populations may be driven primarily by social determinants of health.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; ancestry background; cognitive aging.