What's the best diet to try to prevent dementia and enhance brain health?
Well, the diet that I recommend most often is called the MIND diet. It's a combination of a Mediterranean style diet and the DASH diet which is a low salt diet. It’s easy to follow for most people and doesn't involve any fancy foods or supplements.
This graphic illustrates the principles of the mind diet:
On the MIND diet, older adults are advised to eat whole grains a couple times a day and a green leafy salad at least once a day. Most of the foods in the MIND diet are plant based emphasizing legumes, nuts and vegetables as well as a glass of red wine per day or grape juice if you prefer not to drink alcohol. Eating red meat should be restricted to perhaps once or twice a month and the same thing with pastries, rich cheese, sweets and fast food. Butter is to be avoided in favor of healthier fat sources like olive oil.
A study (1) done at Rush University Medical centre involved almost 1000 older adults, with an average age of around 80, and most were female. The study authors adjusted the results for age, sex, education, total energy intake APOE-ε4, smoking history, physical activity and participation in cognitive activities.
This study found that eating the MIND diet was associated with a slower decline in a global cognitive score, including memory performance. The authors describe the effect as being similar to having a brain that was 7.5 years younger than those who followed their usual diet!
It's also encouraging that it seems as though moderate adherence to the mind diet can also be beneficial (2), so my advice is to do your best to follow the plan most of the time, but don’t beat yourself up if you have a slip now and then.
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1. MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging Alzheimers Dement. 2015 September ; 11(9): 1015–1022. Martha Clare Morris, S.D., Christy C. Tangney, Ph.D., Yamin Wang, Ph.D., Frank M. Sacks, M.D., Lisa L Barnes, Ph.D., David A Bennett, M.D., and Neelum T. Aggarwal, M.D.
2. MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer's disease Alzheimers Dement. 2015 Sep;11(9):1007-14. Martha Clare Morris , Christy C Tangney , Yamin Wang , Frank M Sacks , David A Bennett , Neelum T Aggarwal