New Study of ‘MIND’ Diet Shows It May Improve Memory and Thinking Skills in Old Age
Rush University Medical Center has been examining how the MIND diet positively enhances cognitive performance.
Aging takes a toll on the body and on the mind. For example, the tissue of aging human brains sometimes develops abnormal clumps of proteins that are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. How can you protect your brain from these effects?
Researchers at Rush University Medical Center have found that older adults may benefit from a specific diet called the MIND diet even when they develop these protein deposits, known as amyloid plaques and tangles. Plaques and tangles are a pathology found in the brain that build up in between nerve cells and typically interfere with thinking and problem-solving skills.
Developed by the late Martha Clare Morris, ScD, who was a Rush nutritional epidemiologist, and her colleagues, the MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. Previous research studies have found that the MIND diet may reduce a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease dementia.
Now a study has shown that participants in the study who followed the MIND diet moderately later in life did not have cognition problems.
“Some people have enough plaques and tangles in their brains to have a postmortem diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, but they do not develop clinical dementia in their lifetime,” said Klodian Dhana, MD, PhD, lead author of the paper and an assistant professor in the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine at Rush Medical College.
“Some have the ability to maintain cognitive function despite the accumulation of these pathologies in the brain, and our study suggests that the MIND diet is associated with better cognitive functions independently of brain pathologies related to Alzheimer’s disease.
Better brain functioning
In this study, the researchers examined the associations of diet—from the start of the study until death—brain pathologies and cognitive functioning in older adults who participated in the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center’s ongoing Memory and Aging Project, which began in 1997 and includes people living in greater Chicago. The participants were mostly white without known dementia, and all of them agreed to undergo annual clinical evaluations while alive and brain autopsy after their death.