Alzheimer's Disease and other Dementias
Senior Health

A Diet That Helps Stop Cognitive Decline

Researchers say that eating a group of specific foods – known as the MIND Diet – may slow cognitive decline among aging adults, even those who aren’t at risk of Alzheimer’s.

This finding, by researchers from Rush Medical Center, Chicago, is in addition to a previous study by the research team that found that the MIND diet may reduce a person’s risk in developing Alzheimer’s disease.

According to a news release from the university, the researchers’ new study shows that older adults who followed the MIND diet more rigorously showed an equivalent of being 7.5 years younger cognitively than those who followed the diet least.

The findings were published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The study, funded by the National Institute of Aging, evaluated cognitive change over a period of 4.7 years among 960 older adults who were free of dementia on enrollment. Averaging 81.4 years in age, the study participants also were part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project, a study of residents of more than 40 retirement communities and senior public housing units in the Chicago area.

During the course of the study, participants received annual, standardized testing for cognitive ability in five areas — episodic memory, working memory, semantic memory, visuospatial ability and perceptual speed. The study group also completed annual food frequency questionnaires, allowing the researchers to compare participants’ reported adherence to the MIND diet with changes in their cognitive abilities as measured by the tests.

Martha Clare Morris, ScD, a nutritional epidemiologist, and her colleagues developed the MIND diet, which is short for Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. As the name suggests, the MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. Both have been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions, like hypertension, heart attack and stroke.

“Everyone experiences decline with aging; and Alzheimer’s disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., which accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Therefore, prevention of cognitive decline, the defining feature of dementia, is now more important than ever,” Morris said, according to the news release. “Delaying dementia’s onset by just five years can reduce the cost and prevalence by nearly half.”

The MIND diet has 15 dietary components, including 10 “brain-healthy food groups” and five unhealthy groups — red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast food.


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