The MIND Diet

A pile of fruit - MIND Diet


02/12/2019 - Nutrition may be an important modifiable risk factor in the strategy to prevent or delay the onset of dementia and other forms of cognitive decline. Previous research mainly focused on the role of individual nutrients but recent years have seen a shift in focus toward dietary patterns and their link to neurological health.

In 1993, the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP) began as an observational study of risk factors impacting cognitive decline and dementia. Nutrition factors continue to be a point of study in the ongoing CHAP, though researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and Harvard School of Public Health in Boston have begun to publish results from the over 20 years of data they’ve already collected. The results so far have indicated that specific dietary patterns may have the potential to significantly lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease (AD). The researchers developed the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) as a result of their findings.

The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating patterns.

  • Traditional Mediterranean diets consist primarily of whole, minimally processed foods including grains, legumes, vegetables, fruit, nuts and fish. Small amounts of meat, eggs and dairy products, and a modest amount of alcohol, may also be included.
  • DASH emphasizes fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. It includes whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts but is limited in fat (specifically saturated fat), red meat, sodium, added sugars and sugar-sweetened beverages.

The MIND diet encourages many of the plant-based foods recommended in the Mediterranean and DASH diets, as well as fish and poultry. It also shares the recommendation to limit saturated fats and added sugars. The factors that differentiate the MIND diet come from the focus on daily and weekly recommendations for specific foods and food groups.

Food Frequency Specifics
Vegetables 2 or more servings per day At least one serving of leafy green vegetable per day.
Berries 2 or more servings per week Any type of berry, although blueberries may be potentially more beneficial.
Whole grains 3 or more servings per day Emphasis on grains that are minimally processed.
Nuts 5 or more servings per week  
Beans 4 or more servings per week  
Seafood 1 or more serving per week Focus on fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines.
Poultry 2 or more servings per week  

While there is a strong emphasis on which foods to consume with the MIND diet, it also strongly encourages limitations on several categories of food, including: red meats, saturated fats such as butter and margarine, cheese, refined grains, added sugars and fried foods.

Study results spanning an average of four and a half years showed that participants following the MIND diet lowered their risk of AD by as much as 53% in participants who adhered to the diet rigorously, and by about 35% in those who followed it moderately well. More research is needed to confirm these results, however, using this dietary pattern approach seems to be a promising strategy to improve cognitive decline in the older population.