Rush University develops and test diet to help Alzheimer's sufferers
Fortunately, new research is now providing hope in preventing its onset and reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
A new diet, appropriately known by the acronym MIND, could significantly lower a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, even if the diet is not meticulously followed, according to a paper published online for subscribers in March in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Rush nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris, PhD, and colleagues developed the “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay” (MIND) diet. The study shows that the MIND diet lowered the risk of AD by as much as 53 percent in participants who adhered to the diet rigorously, and by about 35 percent in those who followed it moderately well.
The Rush University study was done on Chicago-area seniors, which had them follow the MIND diet — a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH, or dietary approaches to stop hypertension, diets. The diet consists of what is considered 10 brain healthy food groups and five unhealthy food groups. To put it simply, eating more of what’s in the good group and less of what’s in the bad. The results they found were astounding. The MIND diet was found to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 53 percent in participants who strictly followed the nutrition plan. Even those who only moderately followed the plan had a lowered risk of 35 percent.
The diet, developed by Dr. Martha Clare Morris and her colleagues, was based on years of information on the effects of food and nutrients on the health and functioning of the brain. Past studies lead researchers to believe what we eat plays a significant role in whether one develops Alzheimer’s or not. The longer someone follows the MIND diet the less likely they will develop the debilitating disease. Then of course, the less you follow the MIND diet and eat in an unhealthy manner, the higher your chances of getting the disease.
The MIND diet recommends getting in several servings of green leafy vegetables — spinach, kale, broccoli, collards and other greens. Other brain healthy foods included in the diet are blueberries, beans, nuts, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, red wine, and grass-fed beef.
The foods you should avoid or strictly limit are butter, margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, fried foods and fast foods. By increasing the “good” and decreasing the “bad” brain foods in your diet, you can either decrease or increase your chance of getting Alzheimer’s.
In other words, it looks like the longer a person eats the MIND diet, the less risk that person will have of developing AD, Morris said. As is the case with many health-related habits, including physical exercise, she said, “You’ll be healthier if you’ve been doing the right thing for a long time.”
Morris said, “We devised a diet and it worked in this Chicago study. The results need to be confirmed by other investigators in different populations and also through randomized trials.” That is the best way to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between the MIND diet and reductions in the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, she said.
The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging. All the researchers on this study were from Rush except for Frank M. Sacks MD, professor of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, Department of Nutrition, at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Sacks chaired the committee that developed the DASH diet.