Alzheimers: New Diet Associated with Lower Incidence

MARCH 20, 2015
Gale Scott
Chicago researchers say they have come up with a new diet plan that appears to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

Writing in Alzheimer’s and Dementia, Martha Clare Morris of the Department of Internal Medicine and the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center and colleagues said they combined elements of the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet into an eating plan they call the MIND diet. 

It limits some foods, like sweets and dairy fat, but unline the Mediterranean diet requires only 2 servings of berries, 2 vegetables a day, and 1 fish meal a week,so  it should not be hard to follow, the researchers noted.

The original 2 diets have shown protective effects on brain health, she wrote, but did not “specifically capture the levels and types of foods shown to optimize brain health.”

The MIND diet, which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, adds specific amounts of green leafy vegetables and berries.
Further, it eliminates some requirements of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. Eating a MIND diet does not require more than one serving of fish weekly, and does not include 2 daily servings of potatoes and 3 to 4 daily servings of fruit, nor does it require high consumption of dairy products.

The researchers enrolled 923 participants ages 58 to 98 who were living in retirement communities and senior public housing units in the Chicago area.

They were tracked from 2004 through 2013, including monitoring reports of what they were eating and annual assessments for AD. There were 144 cases of AD developed over an average follow up of 4.5 years.

Participants who were scored highest on complying with the MIND diet had a 56% lower chance of developing AD compared with those who had the lowest compliance. Participants who had even a middling score on complying with the MIND diet had a 35% lower risk of getting AD than those who had the lowest compliance score.

The MIND diet has 15 dietary components. Of those 10 are thought to be brain healthy: green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine.
The unhealthy foods to be avoided in the MIND diet are red meat, butter, cheese, pastry and sweets, and fried/fast food.

 When they analyzed the subjects’ eating patterns and the incidence of AD, they found that while strongly adhering to a Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk of developing AD, even a moderate adherence to the MIND diet was associated with a lower risk of developing AD.

“This suggests that the MIND diet is not specific to the underlying pathology of AD but perhaps better overall functioning and protection of the brain,” she wrote.

The weakness of the study is that it was observational not randomized. Also, the study may not have been long enough to capture cases of AD that could or did develop after it ended.
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