How Do I Fight Alzheimers With the MIND Diet?
There is a good chance you know someone who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or have had a loved one pass away from the disease. It is a very difficult, confusing and painful time for both the individual suffering and the family involved. This degenerative brain disease causes the memory to slowly decline. Alzheimer’s disease progresses from short-term memory loss regarding things such as dates and times, to changes that completely alter the personality or mood of an individual. According to the Alzheimer’s Association:
- The number of individuals who are living with Alzheimer’s in the United States is growing at a very rapid pace. So rapid, in fact, that it develops in someone every 66 seconds.
- It is the sixth leading cause of death in America.
- One in three senior citizens die with Alzheimer’s or another degenerative brain disease.
As time passes, symptoms of Alzheimer’s only worsen, often requiring 24-hour care in the late stages. Because of the prevalence of this disease, researchers have worked hard to try and find preventative measures or ways to delay its progression. A lifestyle-based intervention, involving changing and following specific dietary recommendations, has proven to be effective for those suffering from neurodegenerative diseases. The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Degenerative Delay) Diet, which was developed by a group of researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, has shown significant promise in reducing the progression and symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases.
An Overview of the MIND Diet
The MIND Diet is an acronym for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Degenerative Delay, and is essentially a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. The Mediterranean Diet is comprised of whole-food sources and aims to eliminate highly processed foods as much as possible. It encourages participants to consume whole grains, fatty fish, nuts, olive oil, vegetables and fruits. Meats and dairy products are encouraged in small amounts, and moderate consumption of alcohol (particularly red wine) is also encouraged. The DASH Diet gives more of an emphasis on consuming low-fat dairy products, but its other components are very similar to the Mediterranean Diet. Both the DASH and Mediterranean diets have been researched extensively and have shown to reduce the risk of heart attack, hypertension and other cardiovascular conditions. Some researchers have even concluded that both diets can reduce the risk of dementia as well. To read more about the Mediterranean and DASH diets, check out this article from our Registered Dietitian, Melissa Daniels.
The MIND Diet comprises 15 dietary components categorized by two groups: “healthy” and “unhealthy” food sources for the brain. It does not eliminate any foods, but instead, cautions to limit the “unhealthy” sources to one serving per week. The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics lists these components below. I have also included general guidelines of suggested servings for each food source.
- green leafy vegetables (1+ serving per day)
- other vegetables (1+ serving per day)
- nuts (5+ servings per week)
- berries (2+ servings per week)
- beans (4+ servings per week)
- whole grains (3+ servings per day)
- fish (2+ times per week)
- poultry (2+ times per week)
- olive oil (use as the main source of cooking oil)
- wine (1 glass per day, maximum)
- red meats (3 servings per week, maximum)
- butter and stick margarine: (<1 tablespoon per day)
- cheese (<1 serving per week)
- pastries and sweets (4 servings per week, maximum)
- fried or fast foods (<1 serving per week)
Note that berries are the only food source from the fruit group specifically mentioned. Numerous experimental studies have proven that cognitive decline is slowed down by the increased consumption of berries, particularly blueberries and strawberries. Berries are high in flavonoids, a type of plant chemical that research has shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune benefits.
In one study funded by the National Institute on Aging, researchers studied the eating patterns of 923 senior citizen participants over a course of a four-year span. 144 of the participants developed Alzheimer’s. The study found that the risk of Alzheimer’s was lowered by 53 percent in participants who rigorously followed the dietary patterns of the MIND Diet, and lowered by 35 percent in participants who followed it moderately. But it can also be beneficial for weight loss?
As you can see from the suggested servings, the MIND Diet is a nutritional lifestyle change rather than a strict diet, which is an important factor when trying to lose weight for the long-term. Although the MIND Diet has not been studied for weight loss reasons, its dietary components are a balance of nutritious food sources. When combined with a safe caloric deficit and exercise, weight loss could very well occur. Before you begin the MIND Diet or any other diet, make sure to consult with your physician and Registered Dietitian.
If you are interested to hear more and receive personalized nutrition, check out STYR’s app, fitness tracker and suite of connected smart devices. Through the platform, you can track and log activity, food, hydration, sleep, nutrition, mood and more to personalize your nutrition needs based on data, science and access to registered dietitians, nutritionists and personal trainers.
Please note that this information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. We insist that you always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical/health condition or treatment and before initiating a new health care regime. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the STYR app or on www.MyNutritioniQ.com.