A new diet, known by the acronym MIND, has been found to significantly reduce a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD), even when the diet is not strictly followed, according to new research published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.
The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets, both of which have been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions, including hypertension, heart attack and stroke.
The diet was developed by nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris, Ph.D., of Rush University in Chicago, and her colleagues.
According to the study findings, the MIND diet was able to lower the risk of AD by as much as 53 percent in participants who strictly adhered to the diet, and by about 35 percent in those who followed it fairly well.
“One of the more exciting things about this is that people who adhered even moderately to the MIND diet had a reduction in their risk for AD,” said Morris, a Rush professor, assistant provost for Community Research, and director of Nutrition and Nutritional Epidemiology.
“I think that will motivate people.”
The diet is based on information accrued from years’ worth of past research about which foods and nutrients have positive and negative effects on the functioning of the brain over time. This is the first study to relate the MIND diet to Alzheimer’s disease.
For the study, the MIND diet was compared with the two other diets. People with high adherence to the DASH and Mediterranean diets also had reductions in AD — 39 percent with the DASH diet and 54 percent with the Mediterranean diet — but got insignificant benefits when they only loosely followed either diet.
The MIND diet labels 15 dietary components: 10 “brain-healthy food groups” — green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine — and five unhealthy groups such as red meats, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries, and sweets, and fried or fast food.
To follow the MIND diet, a person should eat at least three servings of whole grains, a salad and one other vegetable every day — along with a glass of wine — snack most days on nuts, eat beans every other day or so, eat poultry and berries at least twice a week, and eat fish at least once a week.
However, a person should limit consumption of the designated unhealthy foods, especially butter (less than one tablespoon a day), cheese, and fried or fast food (less than a serving a week for any of the three), to have a real shot at avoiding the devastating effects of AD, according to the study.
Berries are the only fruit included in the MIND diet. “Blueberries are one of the more potent foods in terms of protecting the brain,” Morris said, and strawberries have also performed well in past studies of the effect of food on cognitive function.
AD, which takes a devastating toll on cognitive function, is not unlike heart disease in that there appear to be “many factors that play into who gets the disease,” including behavioral, environmental and genetic components, Morris said.
“With late-onset AD, with that older group of people, genetic risk factors are a small piece of the picture,” she said. Research has shown that what we eat may play a significant role in determining who gets AD and who doesn’t, Morris added.
The findings also suggest that the longer a person adheres to the MIND diet, the less risk a person will have of developing AD. “You’ll be healthier if you’ve been doing the right thing for a long time,” Morris added.
Source: Rush University Medical Center