We diet for heart health. We diet for weight management. We diet because of food intolerance or preferences. But of the many reasons we decide to go on select eating plans, how many of us actually think of eating healthy to preserve our brain health? Brain health? That’s right. That blob of an organ that controls every function needs some love too. But if you’re reading this and can remember where you placed your keys, chances are, you’re not thinking of your ability to finish a sudoku puzzle in your 80’s. I sure wasn’t. But if we’re diligent enough to eat the right foods to make it to our 80’s, maybe we should invest in our brain health. After all, when we're an octogenarian, we really don’t want to confuse that 50th-gen roombia for our pet Fido. Lifestyle interventions may help us preserve our cognitive abilities.
A study published on September 14, 2021 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s disease suggests that the MIND Diet can help preserve brain function.
What is the MIND Diet?
The MIND Diet stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, and it places emphasis on nutrients that are known for their anti-inflammatory, antioxidants, and pro-brain function properties.
The MIND diet guidelines for brain health are relatively simple, with ten food groups to focus on and five food groups to avoid.
Brain healthy foods to consume:
Green leafy vegetables
All other vegetables
Unhealthy foods to avoid:
Fried and fast foods
Pastry and sweets
Butter or margarine
I have to eat my greens and berries to uhm think good? Show me the evidence.
Prior investigations have shown that adherence to the MIND diet has been associated with slower mental decline and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease in older adults. The findings from a recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Diseases not only supports the earlier findings but also examined the impact of diet on brain pathology post-mortem. This study looked at the diets, brain function, and brain autopsy data of 569 elderly (mostly white females, average age 91 years old) participants. Beginning in 2004, participants completed annual food frequency questionnaires which were used to determine their MIND diet score. All individuals underwent cognitive testing prior to death. Results showed that stricter adherence to the MIND diet was associated with better brain function around the time of death. This observation persisted even when Alzheimer’s disease and other brain pathologies were considered in the analysis. The finding suggests that years of MIND-ful eating can help us keep our marbles later in life.
Eat for your (brain) health
Brain function decline is not inevitable. While there is no cure for certain brain pathologies such as Alzheimer’s disease, there are lifestyle modifications we can invest in (such as regular exercise, engaging in brain-stimulating activities, not smoking, and MIND-ful diet) to help support our brain health. And since the MIND diet combines aspects of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, eating MIND-fully not only supports brain health but also blood vessels and heart health. So think twice before we have that maple bacon donut and MIND-fully consider our options.
Dhana, K. et al. “MIND Diet, Common Brain Pathologies, and Cognition in Community-Dwelling Older Adults,” Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, vol. 83, no. 2, pp. 683-692, 2021
Morris MC et al. “MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging” Alzheimer’s Dementia 11, 1015--1022
Morris MC et al. “MIND diet is associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.” Alzheimer’s Dementia 11, 1007-1014
Beker N. et al, “Association of cognitive function trajectories in centenarians with postmortem neuropathology, physical health, and other risk factors for cognitive decline.” JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(1):e2031654.