Doctors have been saying for years that what you eat can affect the health of your heart. Now there’s growing evidence that the same is true for your brain. A new study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago shows a diet plan they developed — appropriately called the MIND diet — may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 53 percent. Even those who didn’t stick to the diet perfectly but followed it “moderately well” reduced their risk of Alzheimer’s by about a third. Diet appears to be just one of “many factors that play into who gets the disease,” said nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris, PhD, the lead author of the MIND diet study. Genetics and other factors like smoking, exercise and education also play a role. But the MIND diet helped slow the rate of cognitive decline and protect against Alzheimer’s regardless of other risk factors. It found participants whose diets most closely followed the MIND recommendations had a level of cognitive function the equivalent of a person 7. The MIND diet breaks its recommendations down into 10 “brain healthy food groups” a person should eat and five “unhealthy food groups” to avoid. It combines many elements of two other popular nutrition plans which have been proven to benefit heart health: the Mediterranean diet and the DASH Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet.
We hear so much from the media about what we should or should not eat. But what information can we rely on to be accurate? Can the food we eat really reduce our risk of developing dementia? If a person has dementia, can their diet or use of supplements influence how they experience dementia or its progression? The brain requires a regular supply of nutrients in our diet to function and remain healthy. There is growing recognition that what we eat affects the way our brains work and our mental health, as well as our physical health. Traditionally research undertaken to investigate the connection between diet, cognitive function and risk of dementia has primarily focused on the impact of individual nutrients on brain health. Those nutrients commonly researched include: vitamins B6, B12, C, E and folic acid, as well as omega 3 essential fatty acids. The outcome of such research has been inconclusive and thus guidelines to advise on specific nutrient intakes have not been developed.
Back to Dementia guide. There’s no certain way to prevent all types of dementia, as researchers are still investigating how the condition develops. However, there’s good evidence that a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk of developing dementia when you’re older. Experts agree that what’s good for your heart is also good for your brain. This means you can help reduce your risk of dementia by. What you can do: eat a healthy, balanced diet following the Eatwell Guide.