Previous studies have suggested a link between flavonoid intake and better cognitive function in later life but have not been able to control for possible confounding by prior intelligence quotient (IQ). The aim of the present study was to address this issue in a cross-sectional survey of 1091 men and women born in 1936, in whom IQ was measured at age 11 years. At the age of 70 years, participants carried out various neuropsychological tests and completed a FFQ. Associations between test scores and nutrient intake were assessed by linear regression with adjustment for potentially confounding variables. Total fruit, citrus fruits, apple and tea intakes were initially found to be associated with better scores in a variety of cognitive tests, but the associations were no longer statistically significant after adjusting for confounding factors, including childhood IQ. Flavanone intake was initially found to be associated with better scores in verbal fluency (P = 0·003, with standardised regression coefficient 0·10), but, again, the association was no longer statistically significant after adjusting for confounding factors. These findings do not support a role for flavonoids in the prevention of cognitive decline in later life. Studies of diet and cognitive function should include measurement of potential confounding variables, including prior IQ wherever possible.