For most of us, “diet” is a four-letter word. It calls to mind sacrifice, hunger pangs and, ultimately, failure. However, we are not talking about “dieting” here in the sense of trying to lose weight. Rather, by “diet” we simply mean a specific collection of food or types of food. We mean delicious food, gourmet food, yummy food—food that satisfies your hunger and, if chosen wisely, can also reduce your risk for AD. (Is this making you hungry yet?)
It won’t be any surprise to learn that people who consumed a healthy diet—one rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish and poultry—have a greatly reduced risk for AD when compared to those who consumed less produce and more red meats and fatty animal products . That much is uncontroversial. The question that scientists continue to debate is which diet is the most effective. And layered on top of this is another key question: which diet are you likely to actually implement in your own life?
A number of specific diets have been studied for their ability to prevent AD, including the Asian diet , the Mediterranean diet , the DASH diet  and the MIND diet [5,6]. After reviewing the evidence for each of these diets, the Scientific Advisory Board of the AD Foundation recommends the MIND diet.
The MIND diet was developed by Martha Clare Morris, ScD, a nutritional epidemiologist, and her colleagues at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The name of the MIND diet is short for Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. As the name implies, it is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets.
The MIND diet encourages the consumption of 10 brain-healthy foods—vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, berries (particularly blueberries), beans, whole grains, poultry, olive oil and wine (yes, wine!)—while discouraging the consumption of several not-so-healthy foods, including red meat, butter, cheese, fried foods, sweets and desserts. Here’s the MIND diet in a nutshell:
- a salad, at least one vegetable, and three serving of whole grains every day
- beans every other day
- poultry and berries twice a week
- fish once a week
Not too complicated, is it?
Remarkably, the MIND diet was found to reduce risk of AD by 53% for those who adhered closely to the diet, and by 35% for those who followed it moderately well . These are incredible figures, folks! Very importantly, the MIND diet was also ranked the #1 “easiest diet to follow” by U.S. News & World Report in 2017, and the #3 diet overall among 38 diets recently rated .
There simply could not be better news for those of us looking for ways to prevent AD. The MIND diet is simple, effective and easy to implement. Start eating with your mind in mind today!
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- Gu Y, Nieves JW, Stern Y, Luchsinger JA, Scarmeas N. Food combination and Alzheimer disease risk: a protective diet. Arch Neurol. 2010 Jun;67(6):699-706. doi: 10.1001/archneurol.2010.84. Epub 2010 Apr 12. Link
- Ozawa M, Ninomiya T, Ohara T, Doi Y, Uchida K, Shirota T, Yonemoto K, Kitazono T, Kiyohara Y. Dietary patterns and risk of dementia in an elderly Japanese population: the Hisayama Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 May;97(5):1076-82. Link
- Petersson SD, Philippou E. Mediterranean Diet, Cognitive Function, and Dementia: A Systematic Review of the Evidence. Adv Nutr. 2016 Sep 15;7(5):889-904. Link
- Smith PJ, Blumenthal JA, Babyak MA, Craighead L, Welsh-Bohmer KA, Browndyke JN, Strauman TA, Sherwood A. Effects of the dietary approaches to stop hypertension diet, exercise, and caloric restriction on neurocognition in overweight adults with high blood pressure. Hypertension. 2010 Jun;55(6):1331-8. Link
- 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 Sep;11(9):1007-14. Link
- Morris MC, Tangney CC, Wang Y, Sacks FM, Barnes LL, Bennett DA, Aggarwal NT. MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimers Dement. 2015 Sep;11(9):1015-22. Link
- “MIND Diet Rankings,” U.S. News and World Reports, 2017. Link