diet

Dietary Recommendations To Prevent Dementia

Food Week

Eating right may help protect the brain health in old age

Four new studies demonstrate it is not too late to improve your diet. In particular, the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet lowered people's risk of dementia, according to two studies. The MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets, both of which were originally designed to help improve heart health. Seniors who carefully followed the MIND diet had a 35 percent lower risk of declining brain function as they aged. Even people who halfheartedly adhered to a MIND diet reduced their risk of brain decline between 18 to 24 percent. "We've always been saying that a healthy heart is a healthy brain," said Dean Hartley, director of science initiatives for the Alzheimer's Association. A heart-healthy diet also protects the blood vessels inside the brain, reducing the chances of micro-strokes or other health problems that could affect brain function, said Dr. Marc Gordon, chief of neurology at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y. "What's good for the vessels of the heart is good for the vessels of the brain," Gordon said.

The DASH diet is intended to reduce blood pressure by promoting consumption of foods that are low in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol. People are asked to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts, while limiting their intake of red meats, sugar and salt. The Mediterranean diet shares many of the same goals and diet guidelines, with some specific substitutions. For example, people are asked to replace butter with healthy fats like olive oil, and to use herbs rather than salt to flavor foods.

The first MIND diet study involved almost 6,000 seniors participating in the Health and Retirement Study, sponsored by the U.S. National Institute on Aging.Those seniors who held firm to the MIND guidelines were about 35 percent less likely to perform poorly on tests of brain function, said lead researcher Claire McEvoy, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, San Francisco. Those who were moderately adherent were 18 percent less likely to exhibit signs of brain decline.

The second study of the MIND diet's effectiveness involved more than 7,000 women participating in the U.S.-based Women's Health Initiative Memory Study for an average of 10 years. Women who closely followed the MIND guidelines were 34 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, compared to women not following the guidelines at all, said lead researcher Kathleen Hayden, an associate professor of social sciences and health policy at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. Those women who moderately adhered to the MIND diet were between 21 and 24 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's, researchers found.

published by Glen Rothman, MD