Apr 03, 2015 1:00 PM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

Could what you eat help prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

Researchers at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center think so. They say people who follow a diet they’ve developed, aptly named the MIND diet, are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

The MIND diet is rich in green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, berries (particularly blueberries), fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine. Foods that should be limited include red meat, butter, cheese, fried foods, and sweets. In a study involving more than 900 Chicago residents, people on the MIND diet lowered their risk for Alzheimer’s by 35% to 53%, depending on whether they followed it moderately well or rigorously.

If elements of the MIND diet sound familiar, it’s because the approach combines aspects of the Mediterranean diet and the anti-hypertension DASH diet, both of which encourage consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.

Experts caution that this is just one more step to understanding and preventing Alzheimer’s, not a cure-all.

“There is no silver bullet right now,” says Richard King, MD, PhD, an Alzheimer’s specialist at University of Utah Health.

“What I think a lot of these things do is adjust your risk,” King says. “We know Alzheimer’s is complicated in its origin and in its development.” He notes that both genetic and environmental factors likely play a role. 

King says the genetic component makes it difficult to say whether specific foods endorsed or eschewed by the MIND diet make that much of an impact. 

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to what you eat. King says people who are concerned about developing Alzheimer’s should heed some general rules of thumb.

“Foods that are good for your heart are good for your brain,” he says. “I think a lot of foods in that diet are just reasonable choices: less of the red meat, a lot more fish, vegetables and fruit.”

alzheimers diet

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