According to recent statistics, approximately 6.2 million Americans over the age of 65 have been diagnosed and are living with Alzheimer’s disease.1 This neurological disorder is the most common type of dementia and attacks neurons in different portions of the brain reducing an individual’s ability with thinking, physical behaviors and social skills.2,3 While there are medications to help slow disease progression, there is currently no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease.2
Lifestyle modifications including physical activity, incorporation of a healthy diet, disease management and smoking cessation have all been recognized as having the potential benefit of disease prevention.2 Beyond just a healthy diet—what specific recommendations are encouraged to help support neurological function? Let’s take a look.
The MIND Diet: What is it?
The Mediterranean-Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet was first introduced in 2015. This diet combines the benefits from the Mediterranean and DASH diets and focuses specifically on foods that promote cognitive function. Foods recommended weekly are packed with a variety of different nutrients, each supportive of brain health.4
Foods to Encourage: Vegetables (leafy greens!), nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine in moderation.
Foods to Avoid or Limit: Red and processed meats, added butter or margarine, cheese, sweet desserts and fried foods.
The MIND Diet and Alzheimer’s Disease
While research continues to assess the impact of the MIND diet on Alzheimer’s disease progression, early data appear beneficial. According to the Mayo Clinic, cognitive decline was delayed by approximately 7.5 years in individuals adhering to MIND diet guidelines.5 A study from the National Institute on Aging also reflects this potential with a decrease in Alzheimer’s risk ranging from 35% to 53% depending on how well the diet was followed.4
While research remains ongoing, available studies have demonstrated a benefit with use of the MIND Diet to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Embracing healthy diet changes can be a challenge with patients, but an individualized approach and guidance by a registered dietitian nutritionist can make a difference.
Implementation of the MIND Diet depends on each individual and where they are willing to start. If your patient is open to adding leafy greens more consistently in their diet, start with this goal and provide plenty of options for an array of flavors. If they prefer to reduce red meat intake, then discuss alternative protein sources. Long term, these small changes will become part of their normal eating habits with the ultimate goal of supporting brain health.
Note to readers: The information discussed in this blog is not intended to replace medical advice. Please meet with your physician and dietitian before making any changes to your diet.
Stacey Phillips, MS, RD is a clinical dietitian working with general medicine, oncology, CKD, renal transplant recipients and living kidney donor patients. Outside of her work, Stacey is passionate about improving the resources available to individuals with chronic kidney disease and actively participates on several renal dietitian committees.
Dietitians On Demand is a nationwide staffing and recruiting company for registered dietitians, specializing in short-term, temporary and permanent-hire positions in acute care, long term care and food service positions. We’re dedicated to dietitians and helping them enhance their practice and excel in the workplace. Check out our job openings, request your coverage, or visit our store today!
2021 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures. Alzheimers Dement. 2021;17(3):327-406. doi: 10.1002/alz.12328.