'MIND Diet' Among Five Factors That May Lower Risk of Alzheimer's, Study Finds

Older individuals who adhered to the MIND diet along with several other brain-healthy behaviors had a substantially lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
By Lisa Anderson
Jul. 30, 2020 08:42 UTC

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.

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These stud­ies might moti­vate the pub­lic to adhere to an over­all healthy lifestyle,” he added.

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.


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