The Buzz: The MIND Diet

What’s the buzz?

The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay — a.k.a. the MIND Diet —  will help your brain stay younger for longer.

What does the science say?

It’s well established by now that what we eat affects our long-term health — from warding off chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes to aging “gracefully.” But what if there were a way of eating that also boosted brain health? Or even helped your brain ward off the effects of aging?

Two dietary patterns — the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) — that are well-backed by science as health-promoting have also shown promise for reducing risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This connection is not surprising, since many of the foods commonly eaten as parts of these two diets have been linked to better brain health, improved mental acuity and memory, and reduced risk of cognitive decline.

Now a new diet that combines them with an emphasis on foods tied to brain health — the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (or MIND Diet) — is being tested by researchers, and initial results are encouraging. One study linked the MIND diet to a 35 to 53 percent decrease in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and another to reduced cognitive decline equivalent to being 7 ½ years younger. Other studies have been less conclusive, but still suggest some benefits.

Even better is that the MIND diet is fairly simple to follow and has no downside, unlike many fad diets out there. So what does it entail? Eating a daily dose of leafy greens and other vegetables as well as nuts plus regular consumption of berries, whole grains, beans, fish, and poultry. Olive oil is the primarily oil recommended for cooking. All of these foods have been shown to reduce inflammation (a major contributor to cognitive decline) and include nutrients linked to better brain function, such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E. Although not completely off the table, the guidelines also include limiting red meat, butter, cheese, pastries and other sweets, and fried food. Sound familiar? The principles of the MIND diet are very similar to the general healthy eating patterns recommended by most dietitians, just with a slight twist to focus on brain health.

What’s the takeaway?

The MIND diet may reduce risk of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and general cognitive decline. Not thinking about the consequences of aging just yet? At the very least, it’s a healthy diet that may offer other benefits similar to those of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. The best part is that while it’s important to follow the general guidelines, they are not rigid rules: followers don’t need to take an “all or nothing” approach to see some benefits.

Read more about the details of the diet and what the research says here.