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The MIND diet: another approach to dementia risk reduction

Dietary patterns have long been associated with decreasing cognitive decline and reducing your risk of dementia and researchers have now suggested that those who follow the MIND diet can lower their dementia risk by as much as 50%.

The MIND diet stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It emphasises the consumption of natural plant-based foods and limits intake of animal and high saturated fat foods. Unlike the Mediterranean diet (another recommended ‘brain health’ diet) it uniquely specifies the consumption of berries and green leafy vegetables and cautions against foods such as butter, cheese, pastries and sweets, only suggesting to have a couple of servings per week, if at all.

In this most recent study, published in the Journal Alzheimer's and Dementia, the researchers asked 923 participants living in Chicago, USA, to self-evaluate their diet by completing a dietary questionnaire. Participants involved in this population based study were aged between 58 and 98 years and were followed for an average of 4.5 years. They also underwent neuropsychological assessments to measure their cognitive abilities and determine their dementia status.

The diet questionnaire was based on a rating score system. For example the MIND diet was rated out of 15 and if you followed the diet 100% and ate all the recommended foods you got a score of 15. The researchers found that those who strictly adhered either to the MIND or Mediterranean diets (i.e. had high rating scores) were found to have a 50% reduction in the rate of Alzheimer’s disease. Even those who were only moderately adhering to this diet (i.e. had mid-way rating scores) were still found to have a 35% reduction in the rate of Alzheimer’s disease.

Unfortunately, the results don’t suggest that adhering to this diet will prevent Alzheimer’s disease but it does give more evidence that following a healthy ‘brain’ diet can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.The American researchers now plan on confirming their results in different populations and also through randomised controlled trials, which will give much more precise recommendations on ‘brain healthy’ diets.

As part of the Australian Imaging Biomarkers and Lifestyle (AIBL) study currently being undertaken in Australia, diet is one of the major factors being looked at and the researchers will have some clear answers about this in coming years.

In the meantime, there is also plenty of information about diet and dementia risk on the Alzheimer’s Australia Your Brain Matters website

KEY TALKING POINTS ABOUT THIS STUDY

  • The results suggest following this diet might reduce your risk of dementia but it does not suggest it will prevent dementia or delay the onset of symptoms.
  • This trial is a population based study where they asked participants to self-evaluate their diet and is not a randomised controlled trial where they tell participants exactly what to eat and when. This type of trial is planned for the future.
  • The MIND diet has 15 dietary components including 10 'brain healthy' food groups (green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine) and five food groups that is recommends to avoid (red meats, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried/fast food).
  • This study also suggests that the Mediterranean diet can also reduce your risk of dementia.
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