Animal experiments and cross-sectional or prospective longitudinal research in human subjects suggest a role for nutrition in cognitive ageing. However, data from randomised controlled trials (RCT) that seek causal evidence for the impact of nutrients on cognitive ageing in humans often produce null results. Given that RCT test hypotheses in a rigorous fashion, one conclusion could be that the positive effects of nutrition on the aged brain observed in other study designs are spurious. On the other hand, it may be that the design of many clinical trials conducted thus far has been less than optimal. In the present review, we offer a blueprint for a more targeted approach to the design of RCT in nutrition, cognition and brain health in ageing that focuses on three key areas. First, the role of nutrition is more suited for the maintenance of health rather than the treatment of disease. Second, given that cognitive functions and brain regions vary in their susceptibility to ageing, those that especially deteriorate in senescence should be focal points in evaluating the efficacy of an intervention. Third, the outcome measures that assess change due to nutrition, especially in the cognitive domain, should not necessarily be the same neuropsychological tests used to assess gross brain damage or major pathological conditions. By addressing these three areas, we expect that clinical trials of nutrition, cognition and brain health in ageing will align more closely with other research in this field, and aid in revealing the true nature of nutrition’s impact on the aged brain.