New diet could considerably reduce the risk of Alzheimer's

An editor of a food sciences journal highlights eight nutrients studies say are essential for brain health.

Researchers at Rush University in Chicago have developed the MIND diet, which their recent study suggests could significantly reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease. The study is published in the latest issue of Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.

Professor Martha Clare Morris and her colleagues combined elements of the Mediterranean diet with elements of DASH, a diet aimed at combatting high blood pressure, to create MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay).

To test the effectiveness of various diets on preventing the appearance of Alzheimer's disease, the study's authors recruited 923 participants aged 58 to 98, who responded to food questionnaires that reflected how closely their diets followed the Mediterranean, DASH or MIND diets.

After following the subjects from 2004 to 2013, the researchers found that the MIND diet was associated with a 53% reduction in the risk of Alzheimer's disease in subjects who followed it regularly, compared to a reduction of 54% and 39% for the Mediterranean and DASH plans respectively.

However, while the Mediterranean and DASH plans were only effective when applied rigorously, the MIND diet was associated with lower risk even when applied only moderately (35% reduction). According to the research team, this could be an important argument in its favor, particularly since the MIND plan is already said to be easier to follow than the other two options.

The new diet is based on two main categories: 10 brain-healthy food groups (green vegetables and other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine) and five groups to avoid (red meat, animal fats, sugary foods, fried foods and fast food).

A few simple rules indicate the minimum targets of each brain-healthy food group to be consumed throughout the week. For example, vegetables and nuts should be consumed daily, while poultry and berries should be eaten twice a week. The harmful foods are not entirely off limits, but their consumption should be restricted as much as possible (less than 1 tablespoon of butter per day, for example).

While the researchers point out that further study is needed among different populations, they estimate that the MIND diet can already be considered as a way to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, particularly when followed over the long term.

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