Adhering to the MIND diet is one of five healthy behaviors associated with a substantially lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease, according to a recent study funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA).
The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay diet is a fusion between the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. The diet was first formulated in 2015 with an emphasis on consuming 10 food products, including extra virgin olive oil, and avoiding five others.
The other four healthy lifestyle choices identified in the study included being physically active, abstaining from smoking, consuming alcohol in moderation and engaging in late-life cognitive activities.
“In recent years, there has been growing evidence about the role of lifestyle factors in the prevention of chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s dementia,” Klodian Dhana, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor at the Rush University Medical Center, told Olive Oil Times.See Also: Health News
“These studies might motivate the public to adhere to an overall healthy lifestyle,” he added.
Find the world's best olive oils near you.
Researchers found that study participants who adhered to four or five of these lifestyle choices had a 60 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Meanwhile, those who included two to three of these behaviors in their lifestyles had a 37 percent lower risk of developing the degenerative brain disease.
The study, which was published by the American Academy of Neurology last month, incorporated diet and lifestyle information from two different datasets: 1,845 participants were from the Chicago Health and Aging Project and 945 were from the Memory and Aging Project, both of which are funded by the NIA.
The researchers followed the two groups of participants for six years, over which period 608 of them developed Alzheimer’s disease.
Based on the data from the study, Dhana said that adherence to the MIND diet likely played a significant role in decreasing participants’ risk of Alzheimer’s.
“Data suggests that the MIND diet could potentially play an important role in dementia risk,” he said. “Previous observational studies from our group suggested that a higher MIND diet score is associated with a slower cognitive decline and lower risk of Alzheimer’s.”
However, he added that none of the five healthy behaviors were studied independently and further research would need to be done to verify this.
“We did not calculate the proportion of study participants with a higher MIND diet score that did not develop Alzheimer’s disease because our focus was on overall lifestyle factors,” Dhana said.
While the MIND diet and Mediterranean diet are quite closely related, there are some key differences.
The former places a strong emphasis on eating berries rather than other fruits. It also suggests eating fish at least once a week, whereas the Mediterranean diet recommends fish at least twice weekly.
The other major difference between the two is that the MIND diet advises limiting cheese and butter consumption, compared to the Mediterranean diet, which advocates cutting all dairy products to a minimum.
“The MIND diet suggests olive oil as a primary oil for use at home,” Dhana said. “Olive oil is one of 10 brain-healthy food components of the MIND diet.”
In addition to the Rush University study, the NIA is funding more than 230 clinical trials on age-related cognitive decline at this stage. More than 100 of these focus on lifestyle choices, such as diet, instead of focussing on drug interventions.
Another recently-published study found that adherence to the Mediterranean diet may improve cognitive function – as well as decrease cognitive decline. Researchers from the National Eye Institute (NEI) made the finding when analyzing data for two new studies regarding age-related eye diseases.
The NEI researchers had been studying the effect of vitamins on age-related macular degeneration over a few years, when they discovered the positive effects of the Mediterranean diet on cognitive degeneration.
The results, which were published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia: the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, analyzed the effects of nine components of the Mediterranean diet on cognition.
Both the NIA and NEI are part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a U.S. government agency responsible for biomedical and public health research.