The MIND Diet and Brain & Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, June 2023
FOOD AS MEDICINE
The MIND Diet and Brain + Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, June 2023
The MIND diet is a healthful eating plan that contains dietary patterns from the Mediterranean and DASH diets, which show benefits in supporting healthy aging.
By Mark Zuleger-Thyss
June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, and it is a time to focus on people afflicted with a condition that impairs the thinking and memories of its victims and ultimately kills many of them.
Regarding nutrition, we often hear about healthy eating for diabetes, heart health, and weight management but seldom about eating correctly to preserve brain function.
The MIND diet focuses on foods with this purpose. Moreover, it was specifically developed to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, which essentially combines recommendations from the Mediterranean and DASH diet into one pattern of eating.
A study supported by the National Institute of Aging found that this diet reduced the incidence of Alzheimer’s by 53 percent among people who followed it closely and 35 percent among those who followed it moderately well.
Since there are no treatments to reverse Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, new strategies are needed. The MIND diet focuses on the effects food has on brain health. Rush University Medical Center nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris developed it.
It emphasizes foods that positively influence brain health, such as whole grains, fruits, non-starchy vegetables, nuts, beans, legumes, and seafood. The diet limits or eliminates red and processed meats, added salt, sweet foods and drinks, and refined grains.
2015 Dr. Morris and colleagues at Rush University Medical Center and the Harvard Chan School of Public Health published two papers introducing the MIND diet.
The research team followed a group of older adults for up to 10 years from the Rush Memory and Aging Project (MAP), a study of residents free of dementia at the time of enrollment. The group came from over 40 retirement communities and senior public housing units in the Chicago area.
Over 1,000 participants completed annual dietary questionnaires for nine years and had two cognitive assessments.
Researchers developed a MIND diet score to identify foods, nutrients, and daily serving sizes related to protection against dementia and cognitive decline.
Participants with the highest MIND diet scores had a significantly slower rate of cognitive decline than those with the lowest scores. However, the effects of the MIND diet on cognition showed more significant effects than the Mediterranean or the DASH diet alone.
These foods prevent oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, including the brain. The MIND diet focuses on 15 foods – 10 to increase and 5 to limit.
MIND recommends increasing these foods:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Other vegetables
- Olive oil
- Whole grains
The MIND diet recommends limiting these foods:
- Butter and margarine
- Red meat
- Fried food
- Pastries and sweets
What Can You Eat?
The MIND diet is particular about what you can eat daily and requires the following foods.
- Three servings of whole grains daily
- Six servings of green leafy vegetables per week
- One daily serving of another vegetable
- Two servings of berries per week
- One serving of fish per week
- Two servings of poultry per week
- Four servings of beans per week
- Five servings of nuts per week
It also requires olive oil as the primary cooking oil. You can drink one glass of wine daily. Restrictions include less than one pat of butter or margarine daily, less than one ounce of cheese per week, less than five servings of pastries or sweets, and less than four servings of red or processed meats per week.
Vegan and vegetarian friendly
The Bottom Line
The Mediterranean and DASH diets are among the world’s healthiest ways to eat. Most people like the Mediterranean diet because it offers many health benefits.
Alzheimer’s disease is linked to diets high in animal protein and low in fruits and leafy vegetables. For people at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, the MIND diet is a sensible strategy that works.
When used with a balanced plate guide, the diet may promote healthy weight loss if desired.
More research needs to be done to extend the MIND studies in other populations, and clinical trials are ongoing to prove that the MIND diet reduces cognitive decline that occurs with aging.
Martha Clare Morris, ScD
(1955 – February 15, 2020)
Martha was a pioneering researcher of the connection between diet and Alzheimer’s disease. She died peacefully following a battle with cancer on February 15 in her home in Oak Park, Illinois, in February 2020. She was 64 years old.
Morris was a professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, assistant provost of community research, and the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging director at Rush University Medical Center.
For more than 20 years, her work in nutrition and dementia was funded by numerous grants and resulted in many significant findings published in high-impact medical journals. Since 2017, she has led a nationwide clinical trial of the effectiveness of a diet she helped develop in preventing Alzheimer’s dementia.
© 2005 – 2023, Mark Zuleger-Thyss, Garden of Healing, LLC.
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