Researchers at the Rush University developed the MIND diet that helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease. MIND stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay” and is a hybrid between the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet that had been developed to help control high blood pressure.
The MIND diet was a prospective study where 923 people aged 58 to 98 years participated. Researchers followed these people for 4.5 years. Three groups of diets were tested: Mediterranean diet, DASH diet and MIND diet.
The MIND diet study result
The adherence to the diet was measured: those who stuck to the diet very closely, another section of participants that were less diligent, and finally one segment of people who did not take the entire thing too serious. With regard to the MIND diet the group with the highest adherence to the diet reduced the rate of Alzheimer’s by 53% compared to the lowest third. The second group still was able to reduce the rate of Alzheimer’s by 35%. The control diets were the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet. The group that were strictly adhering to the DASH diet reduced Alzheimer’s by 39%, the group that were very conscientious in adhering to the Mediterranean diet reduced Alzheimer’s by 54%. The middle thirds of both control diets did not show any difference versus the lower thirds. The conclusion was that a strict Mediterranean diet has a very good Alzheimer prevention effect, as does a strict MIND diet. However, when patients do not adhere too well to a diet, the MIND diet is superior still yielding 35% of Alzheimer’s prevention after 4.5 years while the other diets when not adhered to that well showed no difference from being on a regular North American diet.
A brief summary of what Alzheimer’s disease is
A few years back the Pittsburgh PET scan was invented. It uses a Pittsburgh B compound radio-tracer to visualize the pathology in the Alzheimer’s brain. This research tool has made it possible to detect even the earliest Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The basic problem in Alzheimer’s patients is that there is brain atrophy, which can be more located in the front of the brain or in the back. There are two types of AD, the early onset AD (EOAD) and the late onset AD (LOAD). Using the Pittsburgh PET scan it was noted that the brain atrophy with EOAD is severe and located in the back of the brain; in contrast to that with LOAD, which is the more common form of AD the brain atrophy is located in the front of the brain. This imaging tool also allows quantitating the amyloid load; amyloid is a gooey substance that is produced by the inflammatory changes in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients (Ref.1). There are multiple possible causes why Alzheimer’s should develop in a person, but nothing conclusive has been determined. In February, 2015 I summarized a talk given by Dr. Smith at the 22nd Annual A4M Las Vegas Conference that also mentioned that there are many causes that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
The bottom line is that atrophy of the brain leads to loss of memory, personality loss and premature death.
The MIND diet
This diet was developed by Martha Clare Morris, Ph.D., a nutritional epidemiologist of Rush University in Chicago and her colleagues. The team observed that some foods were associated with a delay in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease while others contributed to an earlier onset of Alzheimer’s.
This is how they developed the term of the 10 “brain-healthy food groups” and the 5 unhealthy food groups.
Meet the 10 “brain-healthy food groups”: green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, berries, beans, nuts, poultry, olive oil, whole grains, fish and wine.
The 5 unhealthy food groups are: red meats, cheese, pastries and sweets, butter and stick margarine, fried or fast foods.
The 10 brain-healthy food groups are full of anti-oxidants, resveratrol and healthy fatty acids. They prevent hardening of the arteries and prevent the deposits of beta amyloid in the brain, which prevents Alzheimer’s disease. There is a bit of an issue about wine, which I have reviewed in this blog. You can replace wine with resveratrol extract as a supplement in order to get away from the toxic effect of alcohol, which is a cell poison. The choice is yours.
Why are the unhealthy foods unhealthy? There is too much trans fat in butter, cheese and margarine, which accelerate hardening of your arteries. The same problem exists with red meats, pastries and fried or fast foods. Sweets pose another problem: the sugar causes insulin levels in your blood to raise, which in turn causes inflammation in the support tissue of your brain, called glia cells, which secrete the beta amyloid that damages brain cells. At the same time sugar is metabolized by the liver into fat and triglycerides, which causes hardening of the arteries. The end result is earlier onset of Alzheimer’s.
According to Morris blueberries and strawberries, which are part of the brain-healthy food groups have been shown to be the most potent berries in terms of protecting against Alzheimer’s disease and preserving cognitive function.
With the late onset AD (=LOAD) that is the most common form of AD genetic factors hardly play a role. But what we eat will determine whether or not we get AD and we can postpone it significantly, if we eat mostly foods from the 10 brain-healthy food groups.
The MIND diet has been shown to be able to postpone the development of Alzheimer’s disease. It was developed based on the observation that some foods are good for us in terms of preserving cognitive function whereas others are bad. Knowing this it is advisable to eat mostly vegetables, poultry, fish, olive oil, nuts, beans, berries, whole grains, and some wine may be enjoyed as well. At the same time you need to avoid the bad foods mentioned above, like pastries, sweets, red meat, cheese and fast foods.
It is a small price to pay to keep your brain function until a ripe old age. The advantage with the MIND diet is that if you should occasionally deviate from the ideal, you still maintain a significant advantage over the DASH diet or the simple Mediterranean diet.
1. Goldman’s Cecil Medicine, Twenty-Fourth Edition, Goldman, Lee, MD; chapter by David S. Knopman: Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, p. 2274-2283 Saunders 2012.