Higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet (MeDi) and n-3 PUFA may both contribute to decreased dementia risk, but the association between MeDi adherence and lipid status is unclear. The aim of the present study was to analyse the relationship between plasma fatty acids and MeDi adherence in French elderly community dwellers. The study population (mean age 75·9 years) consisted of 1050 subjects from Bordeaux (France) included in the Three-City cohort. Adherence to the MeDi (scored as 0–9) was computed from a FFQ and 24 h recall. The proportion of each plasma fatty acid was determined. Cross-sectional analysis of the association between plasma fatty acids and MeDi adherence was performed by multi-linear regression. After adjusting for age, sex, energy intake, physical activity, smoking status, BMI, plasma TAG and apoE-ɛ4 genotype, plasma palmitoleic acid was significantly inversely associated with MeDi adherence, whereas plasma DHA, the EPA+DHA index and total n-3 PUFA were positively associated with MeDi adherence. The n-6:n-3 PUFA, arachidonic acid (AA):EPA, AA:DHA and AA:(EPA+DHA) ratios were significantly inversely associated with MeDi adherence. Plasma EPA was positively associated with MeDi adherence only in apoE-ɛ4 non-carriers. There was no association between MeDi adherence and SFA and total MUFA. The present results suggest that the protective effect of the MeDi on cognitive functions might be mediated by higher plasma DHA and lower n-6:n-3 PUFA ratios.