In 2020 an estimated 5.8 million individuals in the United States over the age of 65 are living with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and dementia. The number of cases is projected to continue rising due to the increasing size of the aging population, with numbers anticipated to reach 13.8 million people by 2050. Identification of risk factors associated with increased risk of AD include smoking, physical activity and dietary habits, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and alcohol consumption.
Diet modifications may be a way to potentially delay or prevent the onset of AD and cognitive decline. Previous research focused on individual nutrients or foods in the diet, such as fish and dietary fats, however the focus has moved to overall dietary patterns as a whole. Through the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP) and collaboration of researchers at Rush University Medical Center and Harvard School of Public Health, the MIND diet, or eating plan, was developed as nutritional guidance to reduce the risk for AD.
The MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) is a combination of eating patterns from the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and Mediterranean diets, however, this diet focuses more on daily and weekly recommendations for specific food groups. Recommended foods encouraged on the MIND diet include those with antioxidants and found in studies to aid in brain function in aging, including vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acid, vitamin C, vitamin D, and B vitamins. These vitamins may provide a protective role against cognitive decline and AD, while saturated fats and high serum cholesterol are associated with an increased risk.
The MIND diet encourages:
- Limiting: saturated fats including butter and margarine, cheese, fried/fast food, sweets and added sugars, red meats
- One glass of wine daily, however encouraged to be mindful of alcohol consumption
- Vegetables twice daily (emphasis on one serving of leafy greens per day)
- Nuts every day (one ounce serving)
- Berries at least twice per week
- Beans every other day
- Fish at least once per week (such as salmon, herring, mackerel)
- Poultry at least twice per week
- Whole grains three times per day (emphasis on minimally processed grains)
- Olive oil
Early studies have indicated that even moderate adherence to the MIND diet was shown to be beneficial. While additional research is needed, changes to dietary intakes and other risk factors may provide neuroprotective support and be valuable for overall health and well-being.
The MIND Diet. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.eatrightpro.org/news-center/nutrition-trends/health-promotion/the-mind-diet
Morris M. C. (2009). The role of nutrition in Alzheimer’s disease: epidemiological evidence. European journal of neurology, 16 Suppl 1(Suppl 1), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-1331.2009.02735.x
Ashby-Mitchell, K., Burns, R., & Anstey, K. J. (2018). The proportion of dementia attributable to common modifiable lifestyle factors in Barbados. Revista panamericana de salud publica = Pan American journal of public health, 42, e17. https://doi.org/10.26633/RPSP.2018.17
Alzheimer’s Association. 2020 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Alzheimers Dement 2020;16(3). https://www.alz.org/media/Documents/alzheimers-facts-and-figures.pdf
Thalheimer, J. (2015, July/August). July/August 2015 The MIND Diet — Fighting Dementia With Food. Today’s Geriatric Medicine. Retrieved 2020, from https://www.todaysgeriatricmedicine.com/archive/0715p10.shtml