Dementia and Brain Health Decline: Can the MIND Diet help?: Guest blog by Eve Crabtree

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(image: Spotebi)

With more and more people each day taking steps to combat, prevent and manage their mental health, being as healthy as possible, both mentally and physically, is something that’s important to us.

That’s one of the reasons that many people are turning to the MIND diet to maintain brain function and prevent brain health decline and neurodegenerative diseases.

MIND Diet: What is it?

The MIND diet, Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, was created by researchers from a variety of universities in 2015. It aims to reduce the chance of developing dementia and a decline in brain health that is often associated with older age.

Elements of the Mediterranean diet and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) were combined to create the MIND diet. The reason these two diets were chosen above others is because both have been scientifically proven to have significant health benefits.

What was the aim of the study?

The MIND diet, Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, was created by researchers from a variety of universities in 2015. It aims to reduce the chance of developing dementia and a decline in brain health that is often associated with older age.

The study involved over 600 participants and took 3 years to complete. The participants, all of different ages, builds, heights and weights, were asked to follow the diet for the full 3 years whilst data was collected by the team of researchers.

Upon completion, it was immediately found that following the diet had a positive impact on the mental health and physical health of the participants.

One study found that of 923 older people that partook, those that followed the MIND diet closely had a 53% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than those that only followed it loosely.

Additionally, even those that only moderately followed the plan cut their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by an average of 35%.

What foods are encouraged on the MIND diet?

The MIND diet encourages followers to consume 10 main foods that make up the majority of their food intake each week. These foods are:

  • Fish
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Other vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Poultry
  • Olive oil
  • Berries
  • Wine
  • Beans
  • Whole grains

These foods have been recommended because they are low in saturated fat but high in good fats, protein, fibre and vitamins. Eating a varied selection of them each day provides your body and brain with everything it needs to be healthy.

What foods should be limited on the MIND diet?

Along with all other diets, the MIND diet recommends that followers consume a restricted amount of processed foods. This includes:

  • Red meat
  • Cheese
  • Butter and margarine
  • Sweet treats
  • Fried food

Researchers encourage limiting intake of these foods because they are high in trans and saturated fat – both of which have been linked to numerous diseases including Alzheimer’s and heart disease.

What are the benefits of following the MIND diet?

Along with slowing brain health decline and minimising the risk of getting dementia, the MIND diet has also shown to benefit physical health and wellbeing, reduce harmful meta-amyloid proteins, and decrease oxidative stress and inflammation.

 

  • Oxidative Stress and Inflammation

Oxidative stress is caused by unstable molecules, known as free radicals, accumulate in large amounts in the body and cause damage to cells.

Inflammation is the body’s natural reaction to infection or injury. Although beneficial in small doses, if inflammation isn’t regulated correctly, it can become harmful.

The vitamin E in many of the foods in the MIND diet benefits brain function by protecting it from oxidative stress. Furthermore, omega 3 fatty acids in fish are known to lower brain inflammation and reduce loss of brain function.

 

  • Harmful Beta-Amyloid Proteins

Scientists have previously suggested that plaques, build ups of beta-amyloid proteins, are one of the primary causes of Alzheimer’s disease. These plaques collect in the brain and disrupt signals between brain cells, eventually leading to brain death.

Trans and saturated fats can increase beta-amyloid proteins in the brain which is why the MIND diet recommends limiting these foods.  

The bottom line

Several previous studies have been carried out that have shown the impact of eating healthily on mental health and wellbeing as a whole. Not only has a healthy diet and regular exercise proved to improve brain function, reduce stress, and improve memory, it also has a positive effect on the body eg weight.

Due to the fact the MIND diet involves eating a variety of good fats and nutrient rich foods, we can hope that it will improve general mental health and brain function as well as reducing brain health decline and combating dementia.

However, this is purely based on opinion and the results of this particular study: further research is yet to be carried out to analyse the extent of the impact the MIND diet really has on the brain.

The brain is complex and we await the results of more research over the coming years.

Eve Crabtree is a writer and health expert.

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