Why You Should Eat this Way to Lower Your Risk of Alzheimer’s
Did you know that what you have at the end of your fork may be the key to keeping your brain free of Alzheimer’s disease? No, not prongs – but food! Delicious, excellent food. Doesn’t this sound much better than a pill?
And by the way, we haven’t found that elusive pill. The leading pharmaceutical companies have spent billions of dollars to find a miracle cure for Alzheimer’s, with very little to show. Like a zero percent success rate! Although the most recent attempts have found a drug that may slow the progress in specific individuals by a modest percentage, it also can cause brain bleeding and death, is only available to patients who don’t carry the ApoE4 gene, requires expensive testing, and MRIs, and costs a small salary to get your hands on it. In addition, all this money, time, and toil has not yielded a drug that can prevent Alzheimer’s disease in any way.
So, what alternative do you have if you are at genetic risk of Alzheimer’s, are having some memory lapses and have concerns, or have been diagnosed with cognitive decline or Alzheimer’s?
You can be proactive and embrace a new way of eating that includes the most brain-supportive foods while deleting the foods most associated with poor brain health (not to mention high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and whole-body inflammation).
Introducing the MIND diet, which in early studies was shown to drop the risk of dementia in participants by up to 53%. Not only is this astounding, but the MIND diet is free of adverse side effects (except maybe withdrawal from highly processed fast food and sugary snacks), has other health benefits like optimizing heart health, and is free unless you count the slightly higher price of eating more fruits and veggies and wild-caught fish.
Let’s dig into the MIND diet and how to leverage it to upgrade your cognition…
MIND is an acronym that stands for the Mediterranean DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, and it’s a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. The DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and effectively prevents heart disease and hypertension. Decades of studies have linked a Mediterranean way of eating with higher scores on the mini-mental state examination and the clock drawing test, which are both tests used to assess cognition, not to mention higher longevity overall.
People with high blood pressure who adhered to the DASH diet for four months surprisingly showed improvements in psychomotor speed compared to a regular diet. Hence, a team at Rush University in Chicago combined the two diets to create the MIND diet to see if it reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
The MIND diet comprises 15 components, including ten brain-healthy foods to include and 10 “not so-healthy foods” to avoid.
The ten foods to include are:
- Green leafy vegetables,
- Any other vegetables (anything from squash, cauliflower, or radishes)
- Legumes (like lentils, black beans, etc.)
- Whole grains
- Olive oil
- Small amounts of wine
The five foods to sidestep are:
- Red meats
- Butter and stick margarine
- Fried/fast food
**In a recent revision of the MIND diet, wine was removed because of new data showing the negative effect of long-term alcohol intake on brain volume.
The study’s upshot was that over 4.5 years, participants who consumed more of the ten healthy foods regularly and less of the five unhealthy foods had a statistically significant lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. For people who more strictly adhered to the diet, the effect was a 53% reduction in the rate of Alzheimer’s disease development, but even for people who scored in the middle, there was a 35% reduction.
Even more so, the association between the MIND diet and Alzheimer’s disease was not modified by age, sex, education, physical activity, BMI, history of stroke, diabetes, or hypertension. This intervention trumps any medicine that we have for dementia and proves that our brain health is determined a lot by what we decide to put in our mouths.
These are the actual specific recommendations of the MIND diet used in the study:
- One cup raw or half cup cooked leafy green vegetables six times weekly.
- 1/2 cup of other vegetables per day
- 1/2 cup of fresh berries such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries twice a week
- Whole grains such as oatmeal or rice, up to 3 half-cup servings daily.
- Legumes 1/2 cup 4 times per week
- Nuts one ounce or 1/3 cup five servings per week (or two tablespoons nut butter or two tablespoons of seeds 5 per servings per week)
- Poultry two 3-ounce servings per week
- Fish two 3-ounce servings per week
- Olive oil one teaspoon twice a day
- Wine 5 oz, one serving per day.
Foods to avoid:
- Pastries and other sweets (cookies, cake, ice cream, candy one ounce less than five times per week
- Red meat and red meat products 3 oz four servings or less per week
- Fried food, less than one serving a week.
- Cheese 3 oz or less than one serving per week.
- Butter or Margarine one tablespoon or less per day.
Nutrition studies take a lot of work, and ongoing research is evaluating the role of food and brain health. No perfect bulletproof way of eating protects us entirely from cognitive decline. Numerous factors in our lifestyle, environment, genetics, social life, exercise, sleep, and other habits dictate how our brain and body age. But trying the MIND diet is a positive step forward in protecting your most precious asset- your brain.