Did you know that there are diets designed to reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease? One of them in the MIND diet - short for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay diet.
Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, USA, originated the MIND diet. With an emphasis on 10 brain-healthy foods, this diet helps stave off Alzheimer's disease in older adults. Here's how.
The MIND diet makes sure you consume all the nutrients your brain needs
“Several nutrients have been shown to have biological mechanisms related to neuropathology in the brain,” says Morris. On the list is vitamin E, an antioxidant that’s linked to slower cognitive decline
, lower risk of dementia
and reduced accumulation of beta-amyloid – a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin E is abundant in foods like oils, nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables and whole grains.
“The brain is a site of great metabolic activity,” explains Morris. “It uses an enormous amount of energy and in doing so generates a high level of free radical molecules, which are unstable and destructive. Vitamin E snatches up those free radicals and protects the brain from injury.”
Other essential nutrients on Morris’s list are vitamin B12 – found in eggs, cheese and fish as well as animal products like meat – and vitamin B9 (or folate) – found in nuts, beans, leafy green vegetables and grains.
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Omega-3 fatty acids are another hit, which are found in fatty fish and nut oils. Morris explains that these fatty acids, especially DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), are highly concentrated in the brain where they form part of cell membranes and play a role in transmission of signals between cells.
As you age, your stomach acids change and affect your absorption of B12. Therefore, “everyone who gets to middle age should have a doctor check their B12 levels,” says Morris.
A vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to a number of brain health problems, from memory problems to confusion, while folate deficiency is linked to cognitive decline
and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The MIND diet avoids foods that are linked to cognitive decline
The MIND diet mostly concurs on foods that you should avoid or limit to once-a-week servings, for example: Saturated fats found in butter, red meat, fried foods, processed foods, pastries and sweets.
What about dairy products, you ask? “There’s no evidence one way or another. If you like your yogurt, keep eating it,” clears up Morris. That said, you should make sure you consume low-fat
rather than full-fat
dairy products, she adds.
The MIND diet promotes dietary patterns linked to boosted brain health
Studies promoting the brain-boosting benefits of drinking tea and eating blueberries have made headlines recently. However, a concentration on individual foods is misguided, says Morris.
What’s more important than eating certain foods, is dietary patterns and how components of various foods interact to enhance cognitive function, she explains.
The bottom line? As long as you’re following a healthful diet like the MIND diet, you won’t have to worry about individual nutrients for keeping your brain young!