Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Mind Diet

The MIND Diet

The aim:
Preventing Alzheimer’s disease with brain-healthy foods.

The claim:
You may lower your risk of mental decline with this new hybrid of two balanced, heart-healthy diets – even without rigidly sticking to it – early research suggests.

The theory:
The MIND diet takes two proven diets ­­– DASH and Mediterranean – and zeroes in on the foods in each that specifically affect brain health.

The emphasis is on eating from 10 brain-healthy food groups: green leafy vegetables in particular, all other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine. Meanwhile, avoid foods from the five unhealthy groups: red meats, butter and stick margarine, cheeses, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast food.

The MIND diet, which stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay,” was developed by Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center, through a study funded by the National Institute on Aging and published online February 2015. Morris’ team followed the food intake of 923 Chicago-area seniors. Over 4.5 years, 144 participants developed Alzheimer’s disease. The longer people had followed the MIND diet patterns, the less risk they appeared to have. Even people who made “modest” changes to their diets – who wouldn’t have fit the criteria for DASH or Mediterranean – had less risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The study found the diet lowered Alzheimer’s risk by about 35 percent for people who followed it moderately well and up to 53 percent for those who adhered to it rigorously.

Two previous, large U.S. studies have found significant slower cognitive decline in people who ate at least two servings of vegetables per day, with the strongest effect seen with at least six weekly servings of leafy green vegetables. Several animal studies show that eating a variety of berries is tied to better memory performance. Studies suggest eating a single fish meal a week is related to Alzheimer’s prevention.

Morris emphasizes that findings on the diet are not definitive, with more long-term, randomized comparison studies needed. Her team’s second paper on the MIND diet has found the MIND diet superior to the DASH and Mediterranean diets in preventing cognitive decline. Every day, you eat at least three servings of whole grains, a salad and another vegetable, along with drinking a glass of wine. (While a little alcohol consumption seems to be better for the brain than none at all, you could skip the wine since it’s not necessary to follow the guidelines to the letter to benefit.) On most days you snack on nuts, and every other day you eat half a cup of beans. At least twice a week you have poultry and a half-cup serving of berries (blueberries are best), and you dine on fish at least weekly. Olive oil is what you primarily use at home.

You limit unhealthy foods: fewer than four servings of red meats a per week; fewer than five weekly servings of sweets or pastries of any kind; less than 1 tablespoon of butter a day; and less than a serving a week of cheese, fried or fast food. There’s no daily calorie limit or specification – but keeping a healthy weight is important, Morris says.

How much does it cost?
Berries, fresh vegetables and higher-quality olive oil are often pricier than processed, fatty, sugary foods.

Will you lose weight?
Possibly. While the MIND study was not geared toward weight loss, the brain-unhealthy foods frowned on in MIND – such as whole dairy products, pastries, sweets and fried foods – are also tied to weight gain. By avoiding these foods, you might take off pounds while staving off dementia.
With broad food group recommendations, and “permission” to stick to guidelines loosely, the MIND diet should be easy to follow.

Alcohol. Enjoy a daily glass of wine for women, or two for men, but not more.
Receiving a 4.0 score from panelists, the MIND diet reached third place for heathiest diets in a tie with its Mediterranean parent diet.

What is the role of exercise?
Exercise is not addressed in the MIND diet to date. However, physical activity may help protect the brain in people at higher risk for Alzheimer’s, suggest previous studies.
Government guidelines encourage adults to get at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity activity (like brisk walking) each week, along with a couple days of muscle-strengthening activities.

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