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Developed by the late Martha Clare Morris, who was a Rush University nutritional epidemiologist, and her colleagues, the MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH diets.
People in the study who followed the MIND diet even later in life did not develop thinking problems, researchers say.
"Some people have enough plaques and tangles in their brains to have a postmortem diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, but they do not develop clinical dementia in their lifetime," said researcher Dr. Klodian Dhana, an assistant professor in the division of geriatrics and palliative medicine at Rush Medical College in Chicago. "Some have the ability to maintain cognitive function despite the accumulation of these pathologies in the brain, and our study suggests that the MIND diet is associated with better cognitive functions independently of brain pathologies related to Alzheimer's disease."
For the study, researchers followed nearly 600 people who completed annual evaluations and tests to see if they had memory and thinking problems. Starting in 2004, participants were given an annual food frequency questionnaire about how often they ate 144 food items in the past year.
The MIND diet has 15 components, including 10 brain-healthy food groups and five unhealthy groups that include, red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets and fried or fast food.
The MIND diet is rich in whole grains, green leafy and other vegetables every day. People are also encouraged to have a glass of wine and snack on nuts, and eat beans every other day or so, eat poultry and berries at least twice a week and fish at least once a week.
But people must watch their consumption of unhealthy foods, including limiting butter to less than 1 1/2 teaspoons a day and eating less than one serving a week of sweets and pastries, whole fat cheese, and fried or fast food.
"We found that a higher MIND diet score was associated with better memory and thinking skills independently of Alzheimer's disease pathology and other common age-related brain pathologies. The diet seemed to have a protective capacity and may contribute to cognitive resilience in the elderly," Dhana said in a university news release.
"Diet changes can impact cognitive functioning and risk of dementia, for better or worse," he continued. "There are fairly simple diet and lifestyle changes a person could make that may help to slow cognitive decline with aging, and contribute to brain health."
The report was published recently in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
For more on brain health, head to the Alzheimer's Association.
SOURCES: Rush University Medical Center, news release, Sept. 22, 2021
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