Evidence Grows on the Brain Health Benefits of the MIND Diet

Changes in diet and lifestyle have been linked in the past to playing a possible role in helping to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Now a new study adds even more evidence to the potential of the MIND diet in terms of aiding better cognitive function.

The diet evolution: From Mediterranean to DASH to MIND.

It all started with the Mediterranean diet, based on reduced incidences of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions among people in Greece, southern Italy and Spain due to their higher consumption of olive oil, fruits, vegetables, fish and other foods common in those regions. This was followed by the DASH diet, designed to help prevent and control hypertension through the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish and low-fat meats.

In 2015, a hybrid of these diets was developed to see if their therapeutic effects on heart health, blood pressure, stress and other contributing factors in brain health could perhaps lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Dubbed the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) by a team at Rush University Medical Center led by nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris,ScD, the diet encourages the consumption of 10 food groups: green leafy vegetables; other vegetables; nuts; berries; beans; whole grains; fish; poultry; olive oil; and red wine. The diet also recommends very limited consumption of red meat, butter and margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast food.

The MIND diet evolved from the results of a study of older adults that showed participants who selected the diet had a measurable reduction in the rate of developing Alzheimer's disease compared to those on a contrary diet. While promising, this initial study had fewer than 1000 participants, and everyone agreed more work was needed to help validate its findings.

That validation recently arrived.

A dietary link to an up to 35% lower risk of cognitive impairment.

A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in August 2017 used both the Mediterranean diet and the MIND diet to measure cognitive health outcomes using a much larger sampling of older adults --- nearly 6000, a six fold increase. The results bore out the efficacy of the MIND diet as a tool to help seniors maintain brain health.

According to the lead author of the study, Claire McEvoy of the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, "Eating a healthy plant-based diet is associated with better cognitive function and around 30% to 35% lower risk of cognitive impairment during aging." The study goes on to conclude that “greater adherence to [Mediterranean diet] and MIND dietary patterns are associated with better overall cognitive function in older adults and lower odds of cognitive impairment that could have important public health implications for preservation of cognition during aging.”

The evidence is growing. Is your menu taking advantage? 

Senior living communities are increasingly using this growing body of cognitive health research to add new dining options that promote brain health for residents. MemoryMeals® is one program specifically designed around the principles of the MIND diet and is now available at select communities across the country. The evidence connecting a healthy diet with the body's ability to fight or delay dementia is growing. Make sure the older adults you care about have the opportunity to take advantage of dining choices designed with the potential to aid their cognitive health in the years to come.

Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5633651/ https://www.gbhi.org/claire-mcevoy/