By Dr. Nora DeVoe, Ph.D.
Geriatric Care Manager


Fighting Dementia with Food: The MIND Diet Part 2

I have heard from many of you in reference to the March article I did on the MIND Diet and cognitive decline. You wanted more information on the specifics of this diet and how it reduces the risk of cognitive impairment.

The MIND diet is based on a five year, well-documented scientific research study that identified a new dietary pattern to determine the risk of cognitive decline in older adults. Nutrient rich foods were identified from the Mediterranean and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet patterns, which have been shown to impact cognition. These two dietary patterns were then developed into was is now known as Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay or MIND diet. This hybrid dietary pattern awards points to reduced consumption of components known to be harmful. For example, green, leafy vegetables and berries are specific foods known to be beneficial whereas saturated fat is known to be harmful.

The MIND diet has 15 components comprised of 10 beneficial brain foods (green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, seafood, poultry, olive oil, and wine) and five harmful brain foods (red meat, butter/stick margarine, cheese, pastries/sweets, and fried/fast food). Target intake frequencies of each component translate into one point for a best possible score of 15.

The MIND diet was found to be effective in slowing cognitive decline in older adults. This decline was statistically significant; in other words, it was good, solid-based science. The benefits of the MIND diet are thought to be related to the promotion of foods high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

The MIND diet is relatively easy to implement. The following are some simple changes to help follow the MIND diet:

-Add garbanzo beans, black, or kidney beans to salads

-Snack on walnuts, almonds or pistachios

-Include berries at lunch or as a snack daily

-Make your own salad dressing by pureeing berries in olive oil, vinegar, and other spices

-Swap steak and hamburger for white meat chicken, turkey, salmon, or tuna

-Use beans as a primary source of protein in at least two meals per week

-Sauté vegetables in olive oil rather than butter

-Choose fruit or berries for dessert instead of cake or cookies

-Experiment with different greens such as kale, spinach, collard/mustard greens, or Swiss chard

As with any lifestyle change, modifying dietary patterns is difficult for people. However, focusing on making changes only a few at a time can help promote successful and lasting change. The MIND diet focuses on primarily encouraging foods rather than limiting them, which may help with compliance.

In addition to preventing cognitive decline, the MIND diet promotes healthful eating in many other ways. The diet promotes foods known to be helpful for other common health conditions including hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The promotion of lower calorie options such as vegetables, berries, and lean protein could also promote weight loss.

The MIND diet offers an exciting new link between dietary patters and cognitive health. It is a simple and cost effective way to help maintain cognition in the older adult population and should be considered as a potential intervention for older adults.

More research needs to be done to see what other foods may impact cognition as well as what impact diet in younger groups has on cognition later in life. We are always learning more and more about the close connection between our food and cognition.


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Nora DeVoe is a Gerontologist specializing in Eldercare and Caregiver issues. She may be reached at (716) 667-7299.  

Dr. Nora is a ....