New Research Reveals Two Diets That Can Possibly Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

by | Mar 31, 2023 | Functional Medicine | 0 comments

Diet is an integral ingredient for our health. Food as medicine as been a staple part of ancient medicine for centuries. With the advances of modern medicine diet started to take a back seat as the focus of health. However, with the decades of data implicating a poor diet as being a primary factor in multiple conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular health, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and more, diet has been in the spotlight more and more.

Here’s a summary for those not inclined to read a detailed science article. For more details read the full article.

A new study published in Neurology provides strong evidence to support the adoption of a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) and Mediterranean diets, to protect the aging brain. In a cohort of deceased older adults who had adhered to the diets for nearly a decade before death, those who most closely followed them had almost 40% lower odds of having an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis at death, and they had less global Alzheimer’s disease-related pathology, primarily less beta-amyloid, at autopsy. The MIND diet prioritizes green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collard greens, along with other vegetables, and also prioritizes berries over other fruit and recommends one or more servings of fish per week. Both diets recommend small amounts of wine. The study’s findings offer one mechanism by which healthy diets protect cognition.

An innovative study offers compelling evidence in favor of adopting a balanced diet to save the aging brain.

Those who had followed the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) and Mediterranean diets for almost ten years prior to death showed less overall Alzheimer’s disease (AD)-related pathology, particularly less beta-amyloid, at autopsy.

In a cohort of elderly people who passed away, those who followed the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) and Mediterranean diets for nearly ten years prior to passing away had less overall Alzheimer’s disease (AD)-related pathology, particularly less beta-amyloid, at autopsy. Beta-amyloid, also written as Amyloid-β (Aβ) is the predominant pathologic protein in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The production and deposition of Aβ are important factors affecting AD progression and prognosis. The deposition of neurotoxic Aβ contributes to damage of the blood–brain barrier.

The odds of being diagnosed with AD at death were nearly 40% lower in those who adhered to these diets the most. The findings suggest a method by which a balanced diet can safeguard cognition.

The MIND and Mediterranean diets may be one way that people can improve their brain health and protect cognition as they age, according to study investigator Puja Agarwal, PhD, of RUSH University Medical Center in Chicago. “While our research doesn’t prove that a healthy diet resulted in fewer brain deposits of amyloid plaques, we know there is a relationship,” she said.

In Neurology, the study was released online on March 8.

The MIND diet was developed by the late Martha Clare Morris, ScD, a nutritional epidemiologist with Rush University who passed away from cancer in 2020 at the age of 64.

Although comparable, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard greens along with other vegetables, whereas the MIND diet places a higher priority on these veggies. A dish or more of fish per week is advised by the MIND diet, which also favors berries over other fruits. Little amounts of wine are advised by both regimens.

The Rush Memory and Aging Project’s 581 older persons who passed away during the current study’s emphasis (MAP). All individuals consented to yearly clinical assessments and a postmortem brain autopsy.

Starting at a mean age of 84, participants answered yearly meal frequency surveys. The average death age was 91. A 6.8 year median follow-up was used.

Clinical dementia was diagnosed in 224 participants (39%) at or around the time of death, while pathologic AD was diagnosed in 383 people (66%) at or near the time of death.

The MIND and Mediterranean diets and dietary elements linked to AD pathology were investigated by the researchers using a series of regression analyses. They adjusted for factors such as age at death, sex, education, APO-4 status, and total caloric intake.

Overall, both diets were substantially linked to lower levels of beta-amyloid (MIND: -0.022, P =.034; and Mediterranean: -0.007, P =.039), and more precisely, lower levels of general AD pathology (MIND: -0.068, P =.050; and Mediterranean: -0.040, P =.004).

The results remained true even after the study was further adjusted for factors like physical activity, smoking, and the prevalence of vascular disease, as well as after participants who had mild cognitive impairment or dementia at the time of the initial nutritional evaluation were omitted.

The average beta-amyloid burden was comparable to being 18 years younger in those who carefully followed the Mediterranean diet than in those who did not. And those who adhered to the MIND diet the most carefully had average beta-amyloid levels that were comparable to being 12 years younger than those who adhered to it the least.

The typical plaque deposition of people who are 4.25 years younger is correlated with a MIND diet score of 1 point higher.

Individual dietary components showed that those who had seven or more servings of green leafy vegetables per week had less overall AD pathology than counterparts who consumed one or fewer ( = -0.115, P =.0038).

Individuals who consumed seven or more servings per week had levels of plaque in their brains that were comparable to being nearly 19 years younger than those who consumed the fewest servings per week.

“Our finding that eating more green leafy vegetables is in itself connected with lower symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain is intriguing enough for individuals to consider adding more of these veggies to their diet,” stated Agarwal in the news release.

Data from the MAP cohort demonstrated that older persons’ memory and cognitive abilities can be enhanced by following the MIND diet, even in the face of AD pathology, as previously reported by Medscape Medical News.

Interesting Findings from a New Research

As she provided insight on the study for Medscape Medical News, Heather Snyder, Ph.D., vice president of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer’s Association, pointed out that numerous studies have connected general nutrition, particularly a balanced diet low in saturated fats and sugar and high in vegetables, with brain health, including cognition, as one age.

According to Snyder, who wasn’t involved in the study, this new research “takes what we know about the link between nutrition and risk for cognitive decline a step further by looking at the specific brain changes that occur in Alzheimer’s disease and found an association of certain nutrition behaviors with less of these Alzheimer’s brain changes.”

“This is exciting, and more study is needed to evaluate through an intervention if healthy dietary choices can modify the presence of Alzheimer’s brain changes and lower the risk of cognitive decline.”

An investigation of how addressing multiple known dementia risk factors in combination may lower the likelihood of a cognitive decline in older persons is being conducted by the Alzheimer’s Association in a two-year clinical trial called as US POINTER. US POINTER makes advantage of the MIND diet.

But, Snyder said that eating a heart-healthy diet that includes the nutrients that our bodies and brains require for optimal performance is vital even as researchers try to develop a precise “recipe” for risk reduction.

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