The MIND Diet and How it Prevents Alzheimer’s – Can Diet and Nutrition Help?

April 10, 2019 • By Sophia Smith
The estimated reading time is 11 minutes

Of late, there has been a brand new study in London which has established a strong link between Alzheimer’s disease and diet offering more evidence that it is possible to guard your brain by focusing on what you eat. At the UK Alzheimer’s International Conference, researchers claimed that if people could follow a Mediterranean diet that’s heart-friendly or its closest cousin, the MIND Diet, this could reduce possibilities of future impairment to 40%. There were previous studies which had linked heart-friendly diets to better mental health functioning, yet today’s study at the California University is vital for taking into account the size and kind of subjects to link diet and nutrition with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The two diets, the Mediterranean and the MIND diet are slightly different from each other and their key difference stems from the emphasis of MIND on leafy veggies and its restriction of all kinds of fruits except berries. Experts say that the secret doesn’t lie in focusing on specific foods. Overall, the diets seem to have the biggest benefit. It is the nutrients derived from the food that can work in tandem to offer you the benefits. Inflammation is strongly related to cognitive decline and so if you take foods which can reduce inflammation, it can have a positive impact on dementia as well.

The MIND Diet – Food for thought!

There are increasingly large numbers of scientific evidence which reveal that dietary intake has a strong relationship with the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The eating patterns which are advised for improving your cardiovascular health like the DASH diet or the Mediterranean diet also have been seen to slow down cognitive decline and reduce the impending risk of cognitive impairment including the several stages of dementia. Dementia can be an overwhelming disease both for the patient and for those who are providing in home care for dementia patients as it takes a toll on the physical, emotional, mental and social health of the people involved. Hence, trying to prevent it through the best diets can often be beneficial for the future.

A group of scientists did a trial on the MIND diet on 925 people who were in between the age of 58 and 98 years. Their diet plan was determined by utilizing a 154-item questionnaire and their cognitive abilities were all tested by using more than 20 types of cognitive tests of different capacities. The diets of the participants were scored by the proximity of their dietary types with the MIND or Mediterranean or DASH diets as well as their eating patterns. If there was seen high adherence to any of the aforementioned diets was related to the reduced possibilities of cognitive decline.

For people who followed any of these diets closely had the biggest impact and the top 1/3rd of the adherents realized a 55% reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Soon after the Mediterranean diet, the MIND Diet took the close second place as people who followed this diet saw a 53% reduction of the disease. However, it was seen that the MIND diet was proved to be the most effective one as it reduced the disease by 38%. Unlike the other 2 diets which were studied, if people could still moderately adhere to the MIND Diet, this could bring about a considerable amount of reduction in the risk of dementia.

MIND Diet – What is it?

MIND is the abbreviation of the Mediterranean- DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. With old age, there is a constant decline in brain health and cognitive functioning and the MIND diet is designed in such a manner that it can reduce these effects. It amalgamates the 2 most popular diets, the MIND diet, and the Mediterranean diet. Experts who are constantly researching on dementia have always regarded these two as the healthiest diets. In fact, research reveals that they can not only diminish the risk of heart disease but can also lower blood pressure, diabetes and many other diseases.

Researchers were, for a long time, working hard to improve the functioning of the brain and prevent dementia. In order to be able to come up with a successful diet, they took a few foods from the Mediterranean and few from the DASH diet to reveal the positive impact which they can have on their brain health. Both the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diets will advise you to eat a lot of fruits and the intake of fruits has always had a correlation with better functioning of the brain. Hence the MIND diet encourages the followers to take berries but instead, they don’t emphasize the intake of fruits in general. There are no such set guidelines for the way in which you should follow the MIND diet.

MIND Diet – Foods which combat Alzheimer’s and which to avoid

Diet seems to be one of the many factors which play a role in who develops the disease, says the lead author of MIND diet study. There are other factors like genetics, exercise, smoking, and education which to play a vital role. Nevertheless, it was seen that the MIND diet could slow down the rate of cognitive decline and safeguard you from incurring the risk of Alzheimer’s irrespective of other different factors. The MIND diet breaks all recommendations down to 10 food groups which are brain-healthy. Let’s take a quick look at the foods which help prevent dementia. (1)

#1: Leafy green veggies

If experts recommend you to follow MIND diet, it recommends servings of leafy green veggies like broccoli, spinach, kale, collards and various other green veggies which are packed in Vitamins C and A and several other vital nutrients. A person is recommended to take at least 2 servings of green vegetables in a week and researchers have also found that 6 or more than 6 servings in a week are the best for obtaining the biggest benefits to the human brain. However, both the DASH and Mediterranean diets don’t specifically recommend such veggies.

#2: Nuts

Nuts can prove to be one of the best snacks for the health of your brain, as per what the MIND study reveals. Nuts are filled with fiber, healthy fats and antioxidants and there are several other studies which prove that they can also reduce levels of bad cholesterol and risk of developing heart diseases. If you have to follow the MIND diet, you should eat nuts at least 5 times in one week to make the most of it.

#3: Other vegetables

Just as other diets concentrate on only improving heart health and weight loss, the MIND diet stresses the vitality of consuming veggies for improving brain health. The supporters of this diet advise eating a salad or at least one type of vegetable regularly to reduce the risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s.

#4: Berries

Berries are the only fruit which is particularly recommended in the MIND diet. With regards to protecting the brain, blueberries seem to be of the most potent foods. It was seen that strawberries have shown different benefits in the previous studies after taking a look at the impact of food on cognitive functioning. The MIND diet advises eating berries twice in a week to make the most out of it.

#5: Whole Grains

Whole grains are a vital component of the MIND diet and experts recommend you to have at least 3 servings in a day. If you’re someone who prefers having whole grains, make sure you take enough of it in order to get the best results.

#6: Beans

In case beans aren’t a regular form of diet, you should include them in your regular diet. Beans are rich in protein and fiber, low in fat and calories and they also play a vital role in making your brain sharp. Hence, this is included in the MIND diet. Doctors and researchers recommend having beans thrice in a week if you wish to reduce the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s.

#7: Poultry

Poultry is yet another part of the eating plan that’s healthy and friendly for the brain. Poultry includes chicken and eggs and you should have 2 or more than 2 servings in one week.

#8: Fish

The supporters of the MIND diet also studied that eating fish even once in a week will protect the functioning of your brain. Nevertheless, there is no need to go overboard like the Mediterranean diet which recommends you to eat fish every day as the MIND diet doesn’t tell you to have it every day.

#9: Wine

When you are trying your best to avoid Alzheimer’s and dementia, raise a toast to the MIND diet as it advises you a glass of wine every day. However, that means just one! Among the list of the brain-healthy foods, wine rounds out the list and is included among the food groups which safeguard you against Alzheimer’s. Along with all the other foods that are listed above, wine is also one among them.

#10: Olive oil

Olive oil beats all the other forms of fat and cooking oil in this specific diet plan for protecting Alzheimer’s. Researchers have found that people who use olive oil as their main oil got better protection against all sorts of cognitive decline.

Food Groups to avoid reducing the risk of dementia

When we already know that a person who develops dementia will require at home care services and will have to depend on another person throughout his life, why not take the proper foods and avoid the ones which can boost your likelihood of developing the disease? Here are a few food groups to avoid.

#1: Red meat

No, including red meat in this list doesn’t mean that red meat is totally banned in MIND diet but you should certainly limit the consumption to not more than 4 servings in a week if you want to protect your health. This advice is more lenient than the Mediterranean diet as they restrict having red meat to one serving in a week.

#2: Cheese

Cheese can be delicious for your taste but it does no good to your brain as per a study was done by researchers of MIND diet. Don’t have cheese for more than once a week as this is one of the best ways in which you can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

#3: Margarine and butter

If you don’t want Alzheimer’s to wipe off your memory, you should limit your consumption of stick margarine and butter to less than 1 tablespoon in a day. The supporters of MIND diet recommend you to have brain-healthy olive oil instead.

#4: Sweets and pastries

Well, you are already aware of the fact that pastries and sweets aren’t good for your waistline and now it also turns out that they have a very bad impact on the health of your brain. When you’re following the MIND diet, limit yourself to not more than 5 of such treats in one week.

#5: Junk food and fried food

Fast food and fried food round the list of unhealthiest foods for your brain health. If you tend to indulge in fried foods and you seem to be crazy for them, limit them to once in a week for optimum functioning of your brain health.

By now you must be thinking that what if you slip up from the diet sometimes? Would this reverse all the good impacts that it already had on your brain? Well, the answer is No. Even though you may modestly adhere to the MIND diet, this can measurably reduce the chances of a person to develop Alzheimer’s disease. However, the longer you stick to this diet, the more will be the benefits. Experts say that people who take this diet in a consistent manner over a span of many years usually get the best protection. Ultimately, you will turn out to be healthier when you do the right thing for a very long time. So, if you’re currently looking forward to focussing only on your brain health, go for the MIND diet as it is one of the best approaches to follow.

Sophia Smith

She is a renowned nutritionist and freelance writer whose topics of interest include healthy living and healthy eating. She is passionate about introducing new and delicious healthy meals while balancing her time between cooking and going to the gym. Her mission is to change the life of as many people as she can and make them the best version of themselves.
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