By Debbie Jeffery, RDN
The MIND diet designed by researchers at Rush Medical Center in Chicago to help in reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease has been successfully tested. The MIND diet borrows guidelines from the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. All of the diets emphasize including plant-based foods and reducing high fat foods but the MIND diet highlights eating “brain-healthy” foods such as green leafy vegetables and berries. Brain-healthy foods are those that have been identified as protecting the brain and slowing cognitive decline. For example, fruits are included in recommendations for a heart-healthy diet but they haven’t been shown to slow cognitive decline or prevent dementia. However, berries, particularly blueberries, have been shown to protect the brain.
The study found that strict adherence to any of the 3 diets reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease; however, the MIND diet was effective even when only some of the recommendations were followed. Because the study was observational, not randomized or controlled, the results aren’t evidence that the MIND diet reduces the risk for Alzheimer’s but indicates an association between the two.
The MIND diet has 15 dietary components. There are 10 brain-healthy foods to include and 5 unhealthy groups of food to avoid. The healthy foods are: green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine. The unhealthy groups are: red meats, butter & stick margarine, cheese, pastries & sweets, and fried or fast foods. A typical day’s intake on the MIND diet would include 3 servings of whole grains, a salad plus one other vegetable, a glass of wine, nuts as a snack, blueberries or strawberries, chicken or fish, and beans every other day.
The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 5.1 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s. There is growing awareness among experts that lifestyle factors, not just genetics, play a role in developing Alzheimer’s, and the goal of researchers is to develop an optimal diet to reduce the risk. The study results were published in the March issue of the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.