According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than five million Americans are living with this disease and it is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.
In a recent study from Rush University Medical Center, researchers found that there might be a new diet, known by the acronym MIND, that could drastically lower your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
The MIND diet contains 15 dietary components which include 10 brain-healthy food groups, such as veggies, leafy greens, berries, beans, nuts, whole grains, olive oil, wine, fish, and poultry. The MIND diet also includes five unhealthy groups like red meats, butter, cheese, sweets, pastries, fried food, and fast food.
Researchers found that those who followed the MIND diet lowered the risk of Alzheimer's by as much as 53 percent in participants who stayed loyal to the diet, and 35 percent in participants who followed it moderately.
How else can the MIND diet lower your risk of Alzheimer's?
Martha Clare Morris, PhD, shares what the MIND diet is and how it can help reduce your chances of Alzheimer's disease.
RadioMD Presents:HER Radio | Original Air Date: April 30, 2015
Host: Michelle King Robson and Pam Peeke, MD
Dr.Pam Peeke, founder of the Peeke Performance Center and renowned nutrition and fitness expert, and Michelle King Robson, founder of EmpowHER.com and leading women's advocate, cut through the confusion and share the naked, bottom line truth about all things woman. It's HER Radio.
DR PAM: Hi. I'm Dr. Pam Peeke. Michelle's off today.
How do you protect against Alzheimer's disease? So, many of us are really concerned and worried about that. We have a fascinating new study called The MIND Diet and Its Ability to Protect Against Alzheimer's. This is hot new news. And we have with us Dr. Martha Clare Morris, the author of the study. She is professor Epidemiology, Director of the Section of Nutrition and Nutritional Epidemiology in the Department of Internal Medicine and assistant provost of community research at Rush University Medical Centre.
Dr. Morris, welcome to HER Radio. We're very excited to have you here to share your wonderful study results as you looked at the prevention of Alzheimer's disease.
DR MARTHA: Thank you very much. I'm glad to be here.
DR PAM: Alright. So, tell us. First of all, The MIND Diet. What does MIND stand for and why did you do this study?
DR MARTHA: It's a mouthful. The MIND diet is an acronym for Mediterranean-intervention for neuron degenerative delay.
DR PAM: Oh, gosh. OK now say it backwards and just kill me here already.
DR MARTHA: Great. So...
DR PAM: And DASH stands for Dietary Approaches Stop Hypertension. So, it's kind of a hybrid between the Mediterranean and DASH diets.
DR MARTHA: It is.
DR PAM: We're really looking at preventing neuron degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's? So, why did you do this study and what's so unique about this study?
DR MARTHA: Well, we've been, me and my group, have been studying nutrition as it relates to the development of dementia for a very long time, for over twenty years, and we are preparing to do a randomized trial of a diet intervention that would prevent Alzheimer's disease. So, we took the DASH and Mediterranean diets, both of which have been found to slow cognitive decline in observational studies and now, in two randomize trials as well.
Very small, one in Spain, and one in the US. And, we took the components of both diets and compared it to all that we know from years of studying nutrition in the brain. And we modified the basics of these diets so that it adhered more closely to what we've learned on studies that were specific to nutrition and the brain.
So, the Mediterranean diet is just a cultural diet and the DASH diet was developed to lower hypertension, or lower blood pressure. So, neither one of them was specific to what we've learned about nutrition in the brain. So, we made modifications to those diets to make it more specific for the brain.
DR PAM: Oh boy. And I'm going to interrupt you right now because it's got fifteen dietary components, from what I can see and a lot of brain healthy food groups, including green leafy vegetables. That's right. Wipe the shock off your face. I did not say Doritos here. Green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts. Oh, my favorite. Berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine. How interesting! So, you put all of this together. And what did you actually find?
DR MARTHA: Well, when we compared scores on each of these three diets. In relation to the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease in this large community study that we have in Chicago. And we found that all three diets, if you had a high score on any one of these diets you lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. The Mediterranean and the DASH, excuse me, the Mediterranean and the MIND diet had the most protection against developing Alzheimer's disease, if you have a high score. It was around 53-54% reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer's.
DR PAM: Wow! That's very ,very impressive.
DR MARTHA: Yes. But what was interesting is that even moderate adherence, those people that their scores in these fifteen component were in the intermediate range had a 35% reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer's.
DR PAM: Huh? So, there's your message. Well, there's a message here. And, what's that wonderful message? Good grief! I mean you don't have to be the big "P" word--perfect. That, you know, even with, as it were, moderate compliance with this kind of a regimen that you still got some benefit, some reduction in the risk of having Alzheimer's. Right?
DR MARTHA: Yeah. That is true.
DR PAM: I love that. Yes. Yes. And so, what do you u know doing with this MIND diet? You've got this great data. What's the next step with this?
DR MARTHA: Well, we also have been doing analyses looking at these three different diets in relation to cognitive decline. You know, the decline in cognitive abilities as one ages; the decline in physical abilities and motor function and looking at the rates of death and how the three diets would compare with that. So, we're busily trying to analyse all this data and get it in a publication. I can tell you that overall, the MIND diet looks to be very protective from many things related to aging.
DR PAM: Really! What do you mean by that?
DR MARTHA: Well, the slowing of physical decline, slowing of cognitive decline, those are the two main things that we see as we age. So, it looks very promising, and as I mentioned earlier, we are trying to get research funding to do what is called a "randomized control intervention trial" where we would randomly assign people to be on the diet or not. And see, you know, what its the effects on the brain is.
DR PAM: Fascinating. I just love it. I have a got a really personal question. Dr. Morris, did this cause you to change up how you eat?
DR MARTHA: I must say it's to piece apart what I'm studying and how I'm eating. Because I've been studying diet for so long and, yes, I've made changes in my diet as I go along. I am influenced by what I study about nutrition in the brain.
DR PAM: Oh, I love it. You know, because you and I both as researchers in the field and, obviously, well into nutrition science. You know, we're always exposed to this kind of information. So, our HER Radio listeners are there saying, "Oh, my gosh, time to tweak," because we're looking at nuts and berries and beans and green leafies and, you know, fish and poultry and olive oil and, hm, wine. And we're asking ourselves, okay, check, check, check, check, check. What am I doing? And with this hot new research coming out, we really want to be able to sit here and, tweak what we do. And its wonderful investigators like you, Dr. Morris...
DR. MARTHA: Oh, thank you.
DR PAM: ... who help us do that tweaking. Congratulations on an absolutely fabulous study. I know that I went home and popped a few more almonds in my mouth and ordered up some big juicy blueberries at the same time. So, again, thank you for being on HER Radio and sharing your wit and wisdom with us.
DR MARTHA: I'm Dr. Pam Peeke with Michelle King Robson. You're listening to HER Radio on RadioMD. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter and stay well.