Every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease, but a new diet could help some people reduce their risk.
A recent study funded by the National Institute on Aging suggests that the MIND Diet, which is made up of berries, green leafy vegetables and even wine, may reduce a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 53 percent.
The MIND Diet— which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay—combines parts of the Mediterranean and DASH diets, both of which emphasize eating low-fat dairy products, lots of fruits and vegetables and lean protein like fish every week.
Eating brain-boosting foods is important because memory loss is common with aging. Though regular exercise, taking vitamins and learning a new skill can keep your brain sharp, Alzheimer’s disease is still a significant risk for people over age 65. Research shows the risk doubles every five years after 65 and that people over 85 have as much as a 50 percent chance of getting the disease.
Facts about the MIND Diet
The MIND diet divides foods into 10 brain-healthy food groups and five unhealthy food groups. The first category includes berries, nuts, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, green leafy vegetables and other vegetables, olive oil and wine. The five unhealthy foods are red meats, cheese, butter and margarine, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast foods.
The study, which included people ages 58 to 98 who provided information on their diets, found that those who somewhat followed the MIND diet reduced their Alzheimer’s risk by 35 percent. Those who strictly followed the diet lowered their risk by 53 percent and had brain function similar to people eight years younger. This could be because the diet includes foods proven to boost brain power and memory, such as fish, berries and healthy oils.
If you’re curious about the MIND diet and want to try it, here’s what to eat:
- Three servings of whole grains
- A one ounce serving of nuts
- A salad or one other vegetable
- Berries at least two times a week
- Beans or legumes three to four times a week
- Poultry and fish twice a week
You also can have a five-ounce glass of red wine every day. Alcohol probably seems like it shouldn’t be part of a healthy diet, but drinking red wine in moderation can have certain health benefits because it contains antioxidants that boost good cholesterol in the body, which in turn improves heart health.
The five unhealthy foods are limited in the MIND diet. You should eat less than one tablespoon of butter a day and cheese, fast foods and fried foods no more than once a week.
Though we need to do more research to understand exactly how the MIND diet reduces Alzheimer’s disease risk, people should consider following a diet like this anyway. Sticking to a balanced, nutrient-rich diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein improves heart health and lowers your risk for chronic disease like diabetes and high blood pressure. Research even proves that a healthy diet can lower your cancer risk. So, eat as healthy as possible every day—it’s good for you, and more importantly, good for your brain.