It’s now generally accepted that Alzheimer’s disease is attributed to both non-modifiable and modifiable risk factors. Non-modifiable risk factors can’t be changed and include genetic predisposition, age, and sex.
Alternatively, modifiable risk factors include lifestyle behaviors such as level of physical activity and dietary intake. While there is no shortage of dietary advice in the media, two diets have been well researched and associated with improved cognitive function. These two diets are the Mediterranean diet and the “MIND” diet.
The Mediterranean diet has been associated with decreased risk of several diseases, including heart disease, stroke, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
The Mediterranean diet focuses on consuming minimally processed, whole foods and is includes regular intake of:
- Legumes (beans, peas, and lentils)
- Whole grains
- Unsaturated fats (as found in olive oil, nuts, and seeds)
The Mediterranean diet limits intake of:
- Dairy products
- Red meat
- Saturated fats (found in butter, red and cured meats, and dairy products)
In studies of the Mediterranean diet, those with the highest compliance to the diet had a nearly 40% reduction in Alzheimer’s disease over four years compared to those with the lowest compliance.
The MIND diet is a diet that combines both the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. MIND stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay,” and has been evaluated to preserve cognitive function.
The MIND diet includes:
- Daily intake of green leafy vegetables
- Daily intake of a variety of non-leafy vegetables
- Daily intake of olive oil
- Intake of nuts five (5) or more times per week
- Intake of berries two (2) or more times per week
- Intake of beans three (3) or more times per week
- Consumption of fish one (1) or more times per week
- Consumption of poultry (chicken or turkey) two (2) or more times per week
The MIND diet limits:
- Red Meat
- Butter and margarine
- Sweets and pastries
- Fried and fast foods
In a study over four years, those who had the best compliance to the MIND dietary recommendations decreased their risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 53% compared to those with lower compliance scores.
Adopting the foundational principles of the Mediterranean and MIND diet has the potential to conserve your cognitive health. Additionally, several of the individual components of the Mediterranean diet, such as the consumption of olive oil and berries, have independently been linked to improved cognitive outcomes. No matter where you are starting with your diet, working on making small beneficial changes today can help your brain function for years to come.
If you are interested in learning more about your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and what you can do about it, the GenoRisk test may be right for you. The GenoRisk test is a comprehensive analysis that analyzes your non-modifiable risk (such as genetics and age) and provides actionable steps to mitigate modifiable risk factors (such as diet).