The MIND Diet
Alzheimer’s Disease is one of the scariest and most costly chronic diseases. Fortunately, the evidence continues to mount that we have a greater impact on influencing our risk than many would believe. A recent study builds on previous research suggesting that lifestyle, specifically diet can have a dramatic impact on the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Researchers from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, led by Martha Clare Morris, PhD, found that those following their dietary approach rigorously, lowered their risk by 53%, encouragingly, those following it even moderately lowered their risk by about 35%. Referred to as the MIND diet (acronym for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay), the dietary pattern was developed by blending elements of the Mediterranean and the DASH diets, both of which have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The Food Recommendations and Limitations
The dietary pattern emphasized the consumption of 10 brain healthy foods and limited the exposure to 5 foods that may increase risk.
The healthy foods were:
- Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale or a salad with romaine lettuce every day
- One other vegetable every day
- Three servings of whole grains a day. (A serving is one slice of whole wheat bread, ½ cup of whole grain pasta or brown rice, or a bowl of whole grain cereal.)
- Beans every other day
- One serving (about and ounce) of nuts per day
- Poultry two times a week
- Berries at least 2 times a week. The study found blueberries to be very 'potent' in brain protection.
- Fish at least one time a week
- Olive oil
- One 5 oz. glass of wine per day.
Foods that were limited:
- Red meats
- Less than on tablespoon of butter or stick margarine per day.
- Full fat cheese, less than one serving per week
- Sweets and pastries
- No more than one serving each per week of fried or fast foods.
The Beauty of Simplicity
At first glance you may think, there is nothing new here, why all the excitement. First, of the results were impressive, secondly, as Varanda R. Seth, RDN,CDE, spokesperson for the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, states “the MIND diet is fairly simple to follow. Having a green salad and one other vegetable a day and snaking on nuts is pretty simple to do. Many people already have poultry at least two times a week and enjoy a glass of wine with dinner.” The other guidelines while challenging for some to follow, are not overwhelmingly difficult. And as lead research Dr. Morris points out once again, ”one of the most exciting things about this is that people who adhered even moderately to the MIND diet had a reduction (35%) in the risk of Alzheimer’s. I think that will motivate people.”
The Big Takeaway
The take home message from this study is that we have more control over our risk for Alzheimer’s Disease than many consumers believe. Dr. Morris sums it up by saying that “With late onset AD, with that of older group of people, genetic risk factors are small piece of the picture. This study along with past studies have yielded evidence that suggests that what we eat may play a significant role in determining who gets AD and who doesn’t.”