Did you know that the risk of dementia can be reduced by more than 50% through a targeted and conscious diet alone?
Incredibly, but has now been scientifically proven with high evidence.
Martha Martha Clare Morris, ScD, Professor of Epidemiology and Head of the Department of Nutrition and Nutritional Epidemiology at Rush University, Chicago, Illinois, described in a presentation at the conference “The Role of Nutrition in Dementia – Prevention and Treatment” at the New York Academy of Sciences in 2015, results and conclusions from various studies on the relationship between diet and dementia.
She reviewed and evaluated studies on micronutrients in food, such as vitamin E, DHA and folic acid, in relation to their protective function against brain ageing. “It is surprising that the media often claims that these micronutrients have no protective function with regard to the brain’s cognitive abilities”, she observes. Clinical studies often make big mistakes – like starting a prospective study without taking into account the initial situation, i.e. the basic nutritional situation of the subjects. If such factors were considered however, significant protective effects result could be demonstated – for example, with the micronutrients mentioned above.
The same applies to the evaluation of certain dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet. Often, only the proportion of a general population that “eats adequately” is taken into account, rather than the real Mediterranean population (who eats much higher amounts of fish and vegetables than an urban population). These procedures led to gross misconceptions about the relationship between diet and brain ageing.
The MIND study conducted by Martha C. Morris has now taken a much closer look at the effect of two diets – the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) – on cognitive decline and compared them to a new and more advanced diet plan. The MIND diet (Mediterranean DASH intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) uses the basics of Mediterranean and DASH diets but modifies them, by adding foods that have already been identified by research, as important factors to improve cognitive function or delaying cognitive decline.
The research approach
The MIND study tracked 923 people aged 58 to 98 over an average of 4.5 years (in a range of two to 10 years). Compliance with the diet was assessed using a 154-element questionnaire and cognitive function was measured annually using 19 cognitive tests. The participant’s eating behaviour was evaluated using an evaluation grid, which shows to what extent a participant adheres to the MIND, DASH or Mediterranean diet. For each of these diets, high compliance with the rules was associated with a greatly reduced risk of cognitive decline. For those who followed a diet most closely, the Mediterranean diet had the greatest effect. The top third of the followers showed a 54% reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The MIND diet followed closely with a 53% reduction.
However, the MIND diet was the most effective, since the middle third of the MIND diet followers (i.e. those who followed the diet recommendation only moderately) also showed a significant reduction in the AD risk (35%), which could not be proven with the other diets.
“In contrast to the other two diets studied, moderate compliance with the MIND diet significantly reduces the risk of dementia,” says Morris.
And this is how the MIND diet looks like:
|High proportion||Frequency||Strongly limited portion||Frequency|
|Green leafy vegetables||Daily||Red meat||As little as possible|
|Other Vegetables||At least once a day||Butter and Margarine||Less than one teaspoon a day|
|Nuts||Daily||Cheese||Less than once a week|
|Berries||At least twice a week||Biscuits and sweets||Only as an exception|
|Beans||Every two days||Fried or Fast food||Less than once a week|
|wholegrain products||3 times a day|
|Fish||At least once a week|
|Poultry||At least twice a week|
|Olive oil||Very often|
|Wein||One glass a day|
Conclusion: A diet that prevents cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease is relatively easy to maintain. Even if the MIND diet is only moderately followed, significant effects can be expected. You just have to do it and, above all, pass it on. The dietary patterns in senior citizens and old people’s homes must be revised. You can do yourself a big favour (also to your children and grandchildren), if you start getting used to such a nutritional profile right now. The candy floss once in a while or the Black Forest cherry cake for your birthday are not the problem, but the daily glass of cola certainly contributes to the slow mental decay.
- Morris MC, Tangney CC, Wang Y, Sacks FM, Bennett DA, Aggarwal NT. MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimers Dement. 2015;11(9):1007–1014.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25681666
- Morris MC, Tangney CC, Wang Y, et al. MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimers Dement. 2015;11(9):1015–1022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26086182