OBJECTIVE: The associations between trans fatty acids and dementia have been unclear. We investigated the prospective association between serum elaidic acid (trans 18:1 n-9) levels, as an objective biomarker for industrial trans fat, and incident dementia and its subtypes. METHODS: In total, 1,628 Japanese community residents aged 60 and older without dementia were followed prospectively from when they underwent a screening examination in 2002-2003 to November 2012 (median 10.3 years, interquartile range 7.2-10.4 years). Serum elaidic acid levels were measured using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and divided into quartiles. The Cox proportional hazards model was used to estimate the hazard ratios for all-cause dementia, Alzheimer disease (AD), and vascular dementia by serum elaidic acid levels. RESULTS: During the follow-up, 377 participants developed some type of dementia (247 AD, 102 vascular dementia). Higher serum elaidic acid levels were significantly associated with greater risk of developing all-cause dementia (p for trend = 0.003) and AD (p for trend = 0.02) after adjustment for traditional risk factors. These associations remained significant after adjustment for dietary factors, including total energy intake and intakes of saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (both p for trend <0.05). No significant associations were found between serum elaidic acid levels and vascular dementia. CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that higher serum elaidic acid is a possible risk factor for the development of all-cause dementia and AD in later life. Public health policy to reduce industrially produced trans fatty acids may assist in the primary prevention of dementia.