New brain diet ‘slows mental decline’

1134-07-08-2015“Eating food rich in vitamins and minerals keeps the brain younger,” reports the Daily Express. The headline was prompted by a US study of a new diet called MIND, which appeared to slow down ageing of the brain.

The MIND diet was developed specifically to help improve brain function and reduce dementia, and is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the blood pressure-lowering DASH diet.

Both of these diets have previously shown positive effects on cognitive decline. The researchers wanted to see if they could narrow down which elements were the most important.

An earlier study of the MIND diet found participants who stuck rigorously to the diet were 52% less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

The MIND diet involves eating “brain-healthy” foods, with particular emphasis on eating berries, such as blueberries, and green leafy vegetables, like spinach.

Unlike DASH and Mediterranean diets, MIND does not require eating lots of fruit, dairy or potatoes, or eating more than one fish meal a week.

Among the MIND diet components are 10 “brain-healthy” foods:

green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale
other vegetables, such as red peppers, squash, carrots and broccoli
berries, including blueberries and strawberries
beans, lentils and soybeans
olive oil
wine (in moderation)

And five unhealthy foods:

red meats
butter and stick margarine
pastries and sweets
fried or fast food

Some 960 participants, with an average age of over 80, without dementia completed food questionnaires and brain function tests each year for an average of five years.

The study found those who stuck closely to the MIND diet had brains about eight years younger than those in the study who didn’t.

While these results are encouraging, this type of study can only show an association between diet and improved brain function – it cannot prove causation. Even so, the study does lend weight to the potential benefits of eating this type of diet.

Dr Clare Walton, of the Alzheimer’s Society, told the Mail Online: “Previous research suggests that the MIND diet can reduce the risk of developing dementia, and now we see it could also slow down the cognitive decline normally seen with age.”

“It’s important that people realise there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of dementia, in addition to a healthy balanced diet, including being physically and mentally active and not smoking.”


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