The MIND Diet May Protect Against Cognitive Decline

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In people with Alzheimer’s disease, following the MIND diet can help slow cognitive decline. WP Simon / Getty Images
  • Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related conditions that cause cognitive decline are associated with pathological changes in the brain, including an unusual build-up of protein deposits.
  • Although the levels of these brain conditions are associated with cognitive impairment, some people with brain conditions maintain healthy cognitive function.
  • A recent study suggests that adhering to the MIND diet, which is a diet designed to improve brain health, may slow cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • The study found that the association between adherence to the MIND diet and better cognitive health was independent of levels of brain pathology.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. In the United States, approximately 1 in 9 adults over the age of 65 currently have this disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is associated with the unusual build-up of protein deposits called beta-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain.

These protein deposits are believed to be responsible for the damage to brain cells and, therefore, for the impairment of cognitive functions seen in Alzheimer’s disease.

Interestingly, not all people with high levels of these brain conditions or markers of Alzheimer’s disease experience cognitive decline. This ability to maintain normal cognitive function in the presence of brain pathologies is known as cognitive resilience.

In addition, people aged 65 and over who physical activity and activities that offer mental stimulation are likely to have better cognitive performance regardless of their levels of brain pathologies related to Alzheimer’s disease.

Even though some drugs recently studied for Alzheimer’s disease may reduce the levels of beta-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, the interventions scientists have studied so far have shown limited success in slowing the decline. cognitive function.

This highlights the importance of identifying lifestyle factors that can slow the progression of cognitive decline regardless of changes in brain pathologies related to Alzheimer’s disease.

Some studies suggest that the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and the Mediterranean diet may improve cognitive function. Based on these studies, the two diets were combined to create a hybrid MIND diet specially designed to improve brain health.

The MIND diet emphasizes the consumption of green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, berries, legumes, fish, nuts and whole grains while limiting the consumption of butter, cheese and red meat. .

Previous studies have suggested that the MIND diet may slow down cognitive decline and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Recently, researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago investigated the ability of the MIND diet to improve cognitive function in the elderly regardless of levels of brain pathology.

Summarizing the research findings, the study’s first author, Dr Klodian Dhana, Ph.D., said Medical News Today, “We found that a higher MIND diet score was associated with better cognitive function independent of Alzheimer’s disease pathology and other common age-related brain conditions, suggesting that the Adherence to the MIND regimen may enhance cognitive resilience in the elderly. “

Understanding the mechanisms underlying the effects of diet and other lifestyle factors on cognitive function could help researchers develop new treatments to slow cognitive decline.

Given the presence of brain pathologies in a significant number of elderly people and the absence of treatments that can slow cognitive decline, such treatments could be extremely beneficial.

The results of the study appear in the Alzheimer’s Disease Journal.

The new study analyzed data collected by the Memory and Aging Rush Project (MAP) out of 569 people who died. The Rush MAP is a longitudinal study involving adults over 65 with the aim of identifying environmental and genetic factors associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Rush MAP performs annual assessments to assess cognitive health, lifestyle, and risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The study also performs post-mortem analyzes on the brains donated by participants to assess changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

In the new study, the researchers used a questionnaire to calculate the MIND diet score based on how often study participants ate foods deemed healthy or unhealthy on the MIND diet.

The researchers had access to data from comprehensive cognitive tests conducted near the death of the participants. After one participant died, the team performed postmortem analysis to identify brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions known to cause age-related cognitive decline.

About a third of the study participants had a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease before their death. However, the researchers were able to identify two-thirds of the participants as having Alzheimer’s disease based on high levels of brain pathologies revealed by post-mortem scans.

The researchers found a positive correlation between the MIND diet score and cognitive function before the participants died. Additionally, the MIND diet score was associated with a slower rate of decline in cognitive function with aging.

In particular, the association between the MIND diet score and cognitive function was independent of the level of cerebral pathologies linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Likewise, levels of brain pathologies associated with other conditions did not influence the association between MIND diet score and cognitive function.

These results were based on participants’ self-assessments of their eating habits during annual assessments. To minimize the possibility that these reports were inaccurate due to cognitive impairment, the researchers reanalyzed the data after excluding people with mild cognitive impairment at the start of data collection.

The association between the MIND diet and cognitive function remained even after limiting the analysis to individuals without mild cognitive impairment.

The researchers observed similar results when the analysis only included people with high levels of brain conditions related to Alzheimer’s disease. This further suggests that the association between the MIND diet score and cognitive function was independent of the levels of brain pathologies related to Alzheimer’s disease.

In summary, these results indicate that the potential effects of diet on cognitive function are unlikely to be mediated by influencing the levels of brain pathologies associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other brain conditions.

“The [strengths] of the study [include] High quality assessment of diet and cognition and availability of neuropathological data, ”said Dr Dhana.

Likewise, Dr Nikolaos Scarmeas, associate professor of clinical neurology at Columbia University in New York, noted:

“This is a fairly important study because the associations between nutrition and brain neuropathology have not been studied. Very few, if any, studies have information on both ends: eating habits and cognition over the life course and measures of brain changes from autopsy. “

Dr Scarmeas was not involved in the recent study.

The study authors also note that the survey had some limitations. For example, they recognize the possibility that the food information is inaccurate since it was based on self-reports. To address potential inaccuracies in dietary reports, the researchers averaged the MIND diet score obtained from evaluations conducted over several years.

“The limit is the generalization of the results because this study was conducted with older white volunteers,” added Dr Dhana.

Speaking of future directions for research, Dr Dhana said, “I think it is of great scientific interest to identify other modifiable lifestyle factors that have protective effects on cognitive functioning regardless of. [Alzheimer’s disease] pathology and other common brain pathologies.

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