Memory Mondays: Chicago Researchers Develop Diet for Alzheimer’s Prevention
Is there a diet for Alzheimer’s prevention? Researchers from Rush University in Chicago have developed one that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by as much has 50%.
The plan combines elements from the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) to create the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet. The former contains healthy fats, omega 3’s and whole grains and has long been touted for reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease. Meanwhile, the DASH diet centers on fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy, and has been linked with lower risk of heart attack, hypertension and stroke.
During the study, researchers evaluated over 900 seniors following either the MIND diet, the Mediterranean diet or the DASH diet. Over a five-year period, researchers noted incidences of Alzheimer’s in those seniors.
Among seniors following the MIND diet, risk of developing Alzheimer’s reduced by up to 53%, according to the study. Even when seniors didn’t strictly follow the diet, their risk of Alzheimer’s fell by 35%.
“It was surprising that even those individuals who had a moderate adherence to the MIND diet had reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Martha Morris, lead author of the study. “This was not the case for either the DASH or Mediterranean diets for which only the highest adherence conferred protective benefits.”
Researchers designed the MIND diet according to the latest research on the influence of nutrition on the brain. Following the diet for several years could yield the best results in terms of Alzheimer’s protection, according to the study.
MIND Diet Elements
The MIND diet for Alzheimer’s prevention contains 15 elements: 10 food groups considered healthy for the brain, and five unhealthy food groups. The healthy elements are:
– Green leafy vegetables
– Other vegetables
– Whole grains
– Olive oil
The unhealthy elements include:
– Red meats
– Butter and stick margarine
– Pastries and sweets
– Fried or fast food
On a typical day, the MIND diet includes three servings of whole grains, a salad, one additional vegetable and a glass of wine. The diet incorporates beans every other day, nuts as snacks most days, berries twice a week and fish at least once a week. Limiting intake of the listed unhealthy foods is just as crucial to avoid Alzheimer’s, according to the researchers.
The initial results of the study are promising, yet more research is necessary to explore its benefits.
“We devised a diet and it worked in this Chicago study,” Morris said. “The results need to be confirmed by other investigators in different populations and also through randomized trials.”