You are what you eat. But What you eat also shapes who you become.
Decades of nutrition studies repeatedly confirms this. However, the equation lacked a diet specifically tailored to brain health. Realize this, late Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist, studied foods and nutrients explicitly associated with lower cognitive decline and lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and in 2015 had the premiere of MIND diet.
The MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and the diet methods to stop hypertension diet (its name is a combination of the two diets). And it has just passed its latest test.
IN a study published in September in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease researchers show MIND diet can slow cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia in Alzheimer’s disease.
This was true despite the fact that the study participant’s brains still developed the abnormal clumps of proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
First author Klodian Dhana is an assistant professor at Rush University. His focus is on identifying risk factors for dementia. In the absence of a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, researchers aim to identify which modifiable lifestyle factors may lower the risk of cognitive decline. Nutrition, he tells me, “has gained interest because it can be easily changed.”
“I hope the results of this study motivate people to pursue a healthier lifestyle through nutrition, exercise and cognitive activities,” he says.
How the discovery was made – Dhana and colleagues examined data obtained from Rush University’s ongoing Memory and aging project represents 569 participants. These individuals lived in the greater Chicago area and began sharing their quality of life in 1997. In 2004, an annual food frequency questionnaire was thrown into the mix that assessed how often they ate certain foods. All participants agreed to undergo clinical evaluations while alive and a brain autopsy when they died.
Each participant was assigned a MIND diet score based on how closely they adhered to meals within it. Within the MIND diet, there are 10 brain-healthy food groups and five unhealthy groups: The unhealthy group includes butter and stick margarine, cheese, fried and fast food, baked goods and sweets and red meat.
Correct consequence of the MIND diet involved daily consumption of:
- At least three servings of whole grains
- A green leafy vegetable
- Another vegetable
- A glass of wine
Also included were nuts like snacks, beans every other day, poultry and berries twice a week and fish at least once a week. Proper compliance included limiting the consumption of the items in the unhealthy food group.
Overall, about 70 percent of the participants were women, the average level of education was 15 years, and the average age at death was 91 years.
Participants with a higher MIND diet score also were found to have better memory and thinking abilities as they got older. However, autopsies of their brains revealed something dizzying: While some brains contained the protein deposits commonly found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease – enough to deserve a postmortem diagnosis – they never developed clinical dementia.
This suggests that the MIND diet supports cognitive function, regardless of pathologies related to Alzheimer’s disease. The results are consistent with previous findings: Eg. Is the MIND diet also connected with delay of start of Parkinson’s disease and causes the brain of older adults to function effectively as if they are 7.5 years younger than their peers.
Why does the MIND diet work?
Although established, the MIND diet helps with cognitive resilience, but it does not appear to affect how the brain physically changes. So why can it still help?
It can come down to the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective elements in the food that are included in the diet. These foods are known for protect the brainregardless of your age.
The study authors point to green leafy vegetables and nuts: These are rich in nutrients, including vitamin E. Vitamin E, in turn, is an antioxidant that protects neurons from damage associated with oxidative stress.
While studying the MIND diet, Dhana has found himself adopting it.
But the brain’s resilience goes beyond food, he explains: Dhana also recommends engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate and vigorous physical activity per week, focusing on cognitive activities such as reading books, visiting museums and playing puzzles.
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