The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet was recently published in a study done by the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia. It is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. The results show that adherence to this diet can significantly lower a person’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease by 35% even if only followed moderately.
Alzheimer’s disease affects millions of people with currently no known cure and is devastating for patients as well as their families. Research has focused on being able to prevent or slow progression of this disease, mostly with medications, while this recent study showing promising results in how important diet is for brain health. Evidence has also shown that the health of the brain is closely linked to cardiovascular health. It makes sense that a diet that was originally designed to reduce blood pressure also has significant effects on the brain.
Alzheimer’s disease is also a triple threat in many ways – no definitive effective therapy, rapidly increasing incidence, and enormous health costs to provide care for patients. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and more research is vital to provide effective therapies for this condition.
The MIND Diet
It contains 15 dietary components – 10 brain healthy foods and 5 unhealthy foods. The MIND diet includes at least three servings of whole grains, a salad and one other vegetable every day — along with one glass of wine. It also involves snacking most days on nuts and eating beans every other day, poultry and berries at least twice a week, and fish at least once a week.
The diet limits eating the designated unhealthy foods, especially butter (less than 1 tablespoon a day), cheese, and fried or fast food (less than a serving a week for any of the three).
Brain Healthy Foods – green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine.
Unhealthy Foods – red meats, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast food.
Of note, the only fruit included in this diet are berries, which are exceptionally high in antioxidant nutrients which is key for protecting the brain from free radical damage leading to diminished cognition.
ApoE Genetic Marker
Often called the Alzheimer’s gene, ApoE, is actually a protein that transports cholesterol into the bloodstream. Everyone inherits one type of allele – E2, E3, or E4 – from each parent. The combination of your alleles determines your genetic risk for Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease.
E2 – Protective. (~10-20% population)
E3 – The most common. (~60% population) No increased risk.
E4 – Increased risk. (~20-30% population)
Genetic risk factors are also a small part of the picture. Knowing your status can help you and your doctor determine how closely you should structure your food sources around The MIND diet.
More research needs to be done in this area to validate the results with additional randomized trials in a variety of populations. Ultimately, food is more important than your genetic predisposition. So eat real food, not too much, and mostly plants.