A new diet, known as MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay), has been reported in the most recent issue of Alzheimer’s & Dementia, the Journal of the American Alzheimer’s Association to reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 53%.
This diet and associated research has emerged at an integral time for our society. With an ever-aging population, some experts predict that by year 2030, 20 percent of people over 65 will have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Many people mistakenly believe that memory loss and forgetfulness are a normal part of aging, and thus inevitable. However, dementia and AD risk can be greatly reduced with certain practices and dietary changes. While research has found that age-related decline could start as early as age 45, a comprehensive nutritional approach is your best bet to slow the decline and improve your brain health.
What Is the MIND Diet?
Developed by Martha Clare Morris, PhD, a Rush nutritional epidemiologist, the MIND diet is a hybrid of two diets: Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). The MIND diet, which emphasizes vegetables, berries, fish, healthy fats, and nuts, is specially designed for brain health. Fifteen components make up the MIND diet with 10 brain-healthy food groups:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Other vegetables
- Whole Grains
- Olive oil
Unhealthy food groups include red meats, butter & stick margarine, cheese, pastries & sweets, and fried or fast food.
In order to strictly follow this diet, individuals should eat at least three servings of whole grains, a salad, and one other vegetable every day. Poultry and berries should be had at meals twice a week, fish at least once a week, and beans every-other day. Those that only followed this diet MODERATELY still saw significant decrease in their Alzheimer’s risk by 35 percent.
When hungry for a snack, instead of reaching for that bag of chips, reach for raw nuts. Another recommendation, which is great for those wine-lovers out there, is to add a glass of red wine to the mix on a daily basis.
Berries Are Beneficial
Berries are a big part of the MIND diet. “Blueberries (and strawberries) have been identified as the most potent foods in terms of protecting the brain,” states Morris. The article “Berry Fruit Enhances Beneficial Signaling in the Brain” from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry supports this claim. Blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries, along with many other berry types contain high levels of antioxidants, which protect cells from damage by harmful free radicals. Berries can also change the way neurons in the brain communicate. These changes can help prevent inflammation in the brain and improve both motor control and cognition.
Critical to the MIND diet is cutting out the junk food and unhealthy food groups. This is typically the toughest on people because of sugar addiction, as well as foods such as butter, that sneak into our meals. Try to limit the big three: butter, cheese, and fried and/or fast food to less than one serving per week. Keep your daily butter intake to less than a single teaspoon overall. Research has shown that a typical “Western” diet can pose problems for memory and learning. In the study, scientists fed rats a diet high in refined carbohydrates, and high in fats for 90 days. After this time, these rats performed significantly worse on memory tests and also scored poorly on tests that involve the hippocampus, a part of the brain that plays a major role in learning and memory.
Multivitamins Recommended For Brain Health
With any dietary changes, I always recommend supporting healthy nutrition by taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement. Diamond Nutritionals offers several specialized formulas that can help promote brain health. Two that I often recommend are Diamond Nutritionals’ Foundation Vitamins and Memory Support Formula. Since diet doesn’t always allow individuals to maintain healthy levels of nutrients and vitamins, Foundation Vitamins and Minerals is a great way to supplement and maintain healthy levels with an ultra high-grade product. This multivitamin contains essentials such as vitamin K, C, E, B12 and B6, which all play beneficial roles in prevention of poor health. Carotenoids are also a main component of Foundation Vitamins and Minerals, not found in many other multivitamin and mineral supplements on the market.
Diamond Nutritionals’ Memory Support Formula is another essential supplement in reducing the risk of AD and supporting a healthy brain. Three natural ingredients within the supplement are key to its effectiveness: Ginkgo biloba, Vinpocetine, and Huperzine. Ginko biloba is an extract that has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain. This helps to promote nerve conductivity and improve memory. Vinpocetine is an extract of the periwinkle plant that has been shown to increase blood flow and serve as a neuroprotective agent. Lastly, Huperzine is an extract found in Chinese club moss that is a long-term protector of the naturally occurring neurotransmitter, acetylcholine (essential for memory and learning.) All three of these extracts work together to protect and promote healthy brain tissues and neurological connectivity.
These supplements can support the MIND diet for patients who are looking to reduce their risk of AD and promote overall brain health.
A Healthy Diet & Lifestyles is Key
Alzheimer’s is unlike other diseases such as heart disease, due to the variety of factors and components contributing to who gets the disease. Risk factors are not limited to genetics, environment, or behavioral components of an individual’s lifestyle.
Dr. Morris explains that “with late-onset AD, with that older group of people, genetic risk factors are a small piece of the picture.” Past studies express that what we eat truly matters in determining who gets AD and who doesn’t.
More favorable outcomes were present in those people who consistently eat well and stick to a diet similar to the MIND diet. We can then assume that the longer a person adheres to the MIND diet, the less risk that person will have in developing AD.
Even though this study and research is relatively new and needs more evidence, it’s clear that those who eat well and exercise on a regular basis are showing greater health in their older age than others. As risk for AD decreases due to healthy lifestyle choices… starting early is the best thing you can do!