The DietThat May Help Prevent Alzheimer's
There have been some distressing news reports on – your diet during COVID! Now that doesn’t sound too terrible with all of the stressors we are worrying about right now. Everyone is diving into their favorite comfort foods, trying to feel better. As it turns out, their comfort foods are putting weight on them. If that wasn’t bad enough, cognitive decline has been a problem throughout this pandemic so far.
Your brain requires certain foods to get the nourishment it needs to function. If you are not eating foods that supply those nutrients, your brain suffers. A couple of years ago the International Alzheimer’s Association gave their recommendation to the MIND Diet.
It is actually the top-rated diet for brain health right now and is a combination of the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet. The Mediterranean diet has been the go-to diet for brain health for the most part because of its focus on fish, green vegetables, fruits, olive oil, and red wine. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet has been recommended to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The Mind Diet was developed by Martha Clare Morris, PhD and her colleagues from Rush University Medical Center. The primary finding from research with this diet is that it may reduce the incidence of brain disease that increases the risk for dementia. The MIND diet lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 53% in participants that followed the diet rigorously. There was a 35% reduction of risk in those who followed it moderately well. (Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, March19, 2015)
The MIND Diet
The MIND diet has 15 dietary components, including 10 “brain-healthy food groups”, and 5 “unhealthy food group”.
Brain-healthy food group:
· Green leafy vegetables (like spinach and salad greens): At least six servings a week
· Other vegetables: At least one a day
· Nuts: Five servings a week
· Berries: Two or more servings a week
· Beans: At least three servings a week
· Whole grains: Three or more servings a day
· Fish: Once a week
· Poultry (like Turkey or chicken): Two times a week
· Olive oil: Use it as your main cooking oil
· Wine: One glass a day
Avoid –Unhealthy food group:
· Red meat: Less than four servings a week
· Butter and margarine: Less than one tablespoon daily
· Cheese: Less than one serving a week
· Pastries and sweets: Less than five servings a week
· Fried or fast food: Less than one serving a week
Delaying Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia
It can be daunting to change your diet. Habits die hard. But the MIND diet is very accommodating in that even if you don’t adhere to the diet strictly you will still benefit in terms of brain health. The foods chosen are great for the brain and the heart. Besides Alzheimer’s disease, the second largest group of dementia is vascular dementia. There is reason to believe that Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia may be delayed by the same types of food that lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and prevent or manage diabetes.
Vascular dementia is caused by a series of mini-strokes that most people aren’t even aware of. These mini-strokes damage parts of the brain fed by tiny blood vessels. It is well known that hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, is a risk factor for these strokes. Research has recently found “that the risk of Alzheimer’s is not only tied to these same risk factors, but if you treat them, you can actually make a difference,” says Dr. Michael Greger, physician and founder of NutritionFacts.org. In recent studies it was established that people with Alzheimer’s who were treated for high cholesterol or blood pressure, did better. Greger says that, “It didn’t stop the disease; it didn’t reverse the disease, but it slowed the progression.”
As stated in NutritionFacts.org, eating a varied diet takes advantage of foods that may boost different parts of the brain. It is incredible to see how food makes a direct impact on brain function.
· Improve executive function, speed of perception, overall cognition, and fact-based memory -> total vegetable intake is most important
· Autobiographical memory and visual-spatial skills -> total fruit intake is key
· Carrots may benefit one area of the brain while mushrooms help with another domain
Eating healthy foods on the MIND diet consistently for long periods of time provide the best protection for a healthy brain. The nutrition piece of the brain healthy lifestyle is critically important but still must be integrated with all of the other parts: physical exercise, mental stimulation, nutrition, socialization, sleep, stress reduction. The synergy of a brain healthy lifestyle is much stronger than the sum of its parts.
Di Fiore,N. Diet may help prevent Alzheimer’s. Retrieved from https://www.rush.edu/print/1012076
Esposito,L. (January 5, 2016). Eating for your brain as a senior. Retrieved from http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2016-01-05/eating-for-your-brain-as-a-senior
Pagan,C.N. Alzheimer’s Disease Health Center. The mind diet may help prevent Alzheimer’s. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/features/mind-diet-alzheimers-disease