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Researchers at Rush University in Chicago, Illinois, were looking for the effects of diet on their risk of the brain disease Alzheimer’s. They created their own regimen, plucking the known brain-healthy elements from other diet plans.
Their so-called MIND diet appears to have found the brain health sweet spot: in the study it was linked to a 53 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s in the people who followed it.
The MIND diet blends elements of the fish- and vegetable-heavy Mediterranean diet with elements from the DASH diet. The DASH diet is a high-protein, low-fat system designed to reduce high blood pressure. (The acronym stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).
The hybrid MIND diet’s slightly cumbersome full name is the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.
But the diet itself appears to be anything but cumbersome, offering concrete, easy-to-understand advice. Its tenets won’t be unfamiliar to anyone who pays attention to nutrition news; berries, nuts and fish are the stars.
In the study, about 900 people ages 58-98 filled out questionnaires and underwent neurological testing between 2004 and 2013. Those whose diets more closely adhered to the MIND diet had a level of cognitive function the equivalent of a person 7.5 years younger, according to a release by the university.
Diet is just one factor in the disease, said nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris, the lead author of the MIND diet study. But, the MIND diet slowed the rate of cognitive decline for all subjects who followed it.
What’s more, it appears that the longer a person eats this way, the less risk they’ll have of developing Alzheimer’s. "You’ll be healthier if you’ve been doing the right thing for a long time," Morris said.
Here’s an outline of the diet, as interpreted by the Women’s Brain Health Initiative charity, which is promoting MIND as part of their educational outreach:
- Three servings of whole grains per day
- A salad and one other vegetable each day
- Berries at least twice a week (Berries are the only fruit specifically prescribed)
- A one-ounce serving of nuts each day
- Beans or legumes every other day
- Poultry twice a week
- Fish at least once a week
- A five-ounce glass of red wine each day. If you don’t consume alcohol, purple grape juice provides many of the same benefits
- No more than one tablespoon a day of butter or margarine
- Cheese, fried food and fast food no more than once per week
And the best news for last: The MIND diet appears to work well even for those who don’t adhere to it all the time: People who followed the diet only moderately well still had a 35 percent smaller chance of developing the disease.
We’ll toast (with our one glass of red) to that!
Read on for more brain-boosting foods.