New-Hybrid Diet Can Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk

A healthy, balanced diet can lead to a healthy mind, and now researchers have found that you don’t have to adhere to a strict diet in order to get brain-boosting benefits. The study, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, found that the “MIND diet” could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by 35%, even if an individual follows the regimen only moderately. The study also reinforced existing studies that find the Mediterranean diet effective in improving brain health when closely adhered to.

senior man eating healthyThe study investigated the effects of three dietary patterns on the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in 923 participants as a part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project, an ongoing study that identifies factors that are key to protecting cognitive health. The participants, aged 58 to 98 years old, followed certain diets for a decade and took questionnaires to assess their eating habits. The three dietary plans used in this study were the Mediterranean, DASH and MIND diets.

The Mediterranean diet, often known for its heart healthy benefits, is mostly composed of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, beans, nuts and seeds. It also consists of fish and seafood twice a week with a moderate amount of poultry, eggs and dairy and a limited amount of meats and sweets.

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH diet, is focused on treating or preventing high blood pressure. This diet contains of a lot of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-dairy products, along with some fish, poultry and legumes. Red meats, sweets and fats may be eaten in smaller amounts and saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat are limited.

The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or MIND diet, is a hybrid of the other two diets in this study and consists of the following:

  • Minimum three servings of whole grains per day
  • A salad and one other vegetable per day
  • A serving of nuts a day
  • A glass of wine a day
  • Beans every other day
  • Poultry and berries at least twice per week
  • Fish at least once per week
  • Limiting unhealthy-brain foods, which include red meats, butter and margarine, cheese, pastries/sweets and fast food or fried food

To study the diets’ effects, researchers measured the incidence of Alzheimer’s over a 4.5 year follow-up period. Results showed that the DASH diet decreased Alzheimer’s risk by 39%, the MIND diet decreased the risk by 53% and the Mediterranean diet led to a 54% decrease in risk. Most importantly, the study found that individuals who adhered only moderately to the Mediterranean and DASH diets did not see a decrease in their Alzheimer’s risk, while those who moderately followed the MIND diet still saw a 35% drop in risk.

The MIND diet identifies 15 dietary components and encourages eating more from the 10 brain-healthy food groups and avoiding the five unhealthy food groups. The brain-healthy food groups include leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, beans, berries, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine. The unhealthy food groups include red meats, butter or margarine, cheese, sweets and fried food. Although stricter adherence to this eating plan shows better results, it is still very promising that positive results can be achieved even when the diet is followed only moderately, especially as compared to the nonexistent decrease in Alzheimer’s risk from moderate adherence to the DASH or Mediterranean diet. What will you choose to eat today to help keep your brain healthy?