Dear Dietitian: Diet and dementia
We often hear about diet and heart disease or weight loss. I recently read about a diet that might prevent dementia. Have you heard of this?
Dear Mr. Potzman,
There has been recent research on diet and dementia. The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet is a combination of the Mediterranean and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. It focuses on foods that have been found to have a protective effect on the brain. The diet’s aim is to slow loss of brain function, thereby delaying or possibly preventing dementia.
In a joint effort, Harvard and Rush Universities studied 960 adults aged 65 to 84 years. One group followed the MIND diet with a 250-calorie reduction per day. The other group ate their usual diet but included the same calorie reduction. The study found that the MIND diet lowered the risk of dementia by as much as 53 percent in those who followed the diet strictly, and by about 35 percent in those who followed it moderately well.
The MIND diet focuses on plant foods:
--Green, leafy vegetables, like spinach and Romaine lettuce: at least six servings per week
--Other vegetables: at least one per day
--Beans: at least three servings per week
--Nuts: at least five servings per week. 1 serving = ¼ cup
--Berries: two or more servings per week. There was no overall benefit found in other fruits. However, other fruits are a good source of fiber and vitamins.
--Whole grains: three or more servings a day. Think fiber.
--Fish: once a week
--Poultry: twice a week
--Olive oil: use as your main cooking oil
--Wine: one glass of red wine per day. 1 serving = 4 fluid ounces. Experts agree that if you do not drink, don’t start.
The diet limits red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, sweets, and fried foods.
As with any study, this one has its limitations. Keep in mind that this area of research is very new. It’s sort of like a new car on the market. It takes a while to see if it’s a good, reliable vehicle. Also, the study is observational, so a cause and effect relationship cannot be established. More studies are needed to see if the same results can be duplicated. Finally, the study was performed on an elderly, Caucasian population, so the results cannot be assumed by other age groups or cultures.
Good health to you!
Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC, is an award-winning dietitian based in Missouri. Her mission is to educate the public on sound, evidence-based nutrition. Do you have a nutrition question? Email her at email@example.com.