A diet that is believed to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease by as much as 53% has been rated the easiest to follow in an annual report by the US News & World Report. The diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets and the name MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.
Both of these have been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions, like heart attacks and stroke, as well as protecting against dementia. Combined, the diet was found to lower the risk of Alzheimer's by over 50% in participants who followed the diet rigorously. Following it moderately well led to a 35% risk reduction.
The MIND diet was developed by Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist. It is based on information from many years of research about foods and nutrients and the effect they have on the brain. It has 15 components, 10 of which are known as "brain healthy food groups". The other five are unhealthy – butter, cheese, pastries and sweets, red meat and fried/fast food.
In the diet, followers should eat at least three servings of whole grains, a green leafy vegetable and one other vegetable every day. It also says you should have a single glass of wine every day. Nuts are advised as snack foods, while beans should be eaten roughly every other day. Poultry and berries should be eaten twice a week and fish once per week.
To really get benefits, however, people must eat far less of the unhealthy foods – it says people must have less than three servings a week of any of the five unhealthy foods. "One of the more exciting things about this is that people who adhered even moderately to the MIND diet had a reduction in their risk for Alzheimer's," Morris said.
"The MIND diet is a modification of the Mediterranean and DASH diets that highlights the foods and nutrients shown through the scientific literature to be associated with dementia prevention. There is still a great deal of study we need to do in this area, and I expect that we'll make further modifications as the science on diet and the brain advances."
She notes, however, that more research is needed to confirm the diet's effects on Alzheimer's: "We devised a diet and it worked in this Chicago study. The results need to be confirmed by other investigators in different populations and also through randomised trials."
In this year's Best Diets report, experts ranked the MIND diet as the easiest to follow, as well as one of the best diets overall, best for healthy eating, best for diabetes, best for weight-loss and best for diabetes.