Improve your Aging Cognition with the MIND Diet

What’s New in Psychology?

Improve your Aging Cognition with the MIND Diet     

 Jim Windell    

           There is no doubt that aging takes a toll on your body. Cells function less well – and some may die. Organs, which are dependent on cells, also begin to deteriorate. Bones start to become less dense. And muscle tissue decreases. Aging brain tissues sometimes develop abnormal clumps of proteins that are the hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

           While no one can avoid aging, the proper diet can help stave off some of the physical ravages of old age.

           In fact, researchers at Rush University Medical Center have found that older adults may benefit from a specific diet called the MIND diet – even when they develop these protein deposits, known as amyloid plaques and tangles. Plaques and tangles are a pathology found in the brain that build up in between nerve cells and typically interfere with thinking and problem-solving skills.

           Developed by the late Martha Clare Morris, ScD, who was a Rush nutritional epidemiologist, and her colleagues, the MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. Previous research studies have found that the MIND diet may reduce a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease dementia.

           A study recently published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease shows that people who followed the MIND diet moderately later in life did not develop cognition problems.

           The researchers at Rush Medical Center followed 569 participants, who were asked to complete annual evaluations and cognitive tests to see if they had developed memory and thinking problems. Beginning in 2004, participants were given an annual food frequency questionnaire about how often they ate 144 food items in the previous year.

           Using the questionnaire answers, the researchers gave each participant a MIND diet score based on how often the participants ate specific foods. The MIND diet has 15 dietary components, including 10 “brain-healthy food groups” and five unhealthy groups. The unhealthy groups included red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast food.

           The study reports that in order to adhere to and benefit from the MIND diet, a person would need to eat at least three servings of whole grains, a green leafy vegetable and one other vegetable every day, drink a glass of wine, snack most days on nuts, have beans every other day or so, eat poultry and berries at least twice a week and fish at least once a week. A person also must limit intake of the designated unhealthy foods, limiting butter to less than 1 1/2 teaspoons a day and eating less than a serving a week of sweets and pastries, whole fat cheese, and fried or fast food.

           According to Klodian Dhana, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the paper and an assistant professor in the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine at Rush Medical College, “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.”

           The reason for this, says Dr. Dhana is that some have the ability to maintain cognitive function despite the accumulation of these pathologies in the brain. “Our study suggests that the MIND diet is associated with better cognitive functions independently of brain pathologies related to Alzheimer's disease,” adds Dr. Dhana.

           The study finds 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,” adds Dhana.

           A conclusion, says Dhana, is that 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.

           To read the original journal article, find it with this reference:

Klodian Dhana, Bryan D. James, Puja Agarwal, Neelum T. Aggarwal, Laurel J. Cherian, Sue E. Leurgans, Lisa L. Barnes, David A. Bennett, Julie A. Schneider. (2021). MIND Diet, Common Brain Pathologies, and Cognition in Community-Dwelling Older Adults. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 83 (2): 683 DOI: 10.3233/JAD-210107

Share this post:

Comments on "Improve your Aging Cognition with the MIND Diet "

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment