Scientific research continues to show that diet can be a very powerful tool to help mitigate the body’s aging process. In addition to helping the body fight off disease, certain foods can help lower the risk or even prevent dementia.
Two Diets Can Help Prevent Dementia
Research out of University of California, San Francisco, and University of Michigan, examined which diet best protects against cognitive decline such as dementia. First, researchers evaluated the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet).
This diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, olive oil and fish. Other studies have shown that the MedDiet promotes anti-inflammatory and vascular benefits.
Secondly, researchers examined the neuroprotective effects of the MIND diet. This particular diet expands on the MedDiet by adding foods suggested under the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
These include: leafy greens, vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine. Interestingly, a study out of the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL, revealed that the MIND diet cuts people’s risk of Alzheimer’s by about 53 percent.
Both the MedDiet and the MIND diet suggest that you limit your intake of red meat, butter, cheeses, sweets, and fried and fast foods.
Dietary Effects on Cognitive Function
The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, compared the diets of participants to their performance on congnitive tests. Researchers assessed the adherence to MedDiet and MIND diet patterns by calculating summary scores using predefined criteria. A participant’s higher score indicated better adherence to the diet. The study revealed:
Participants with mid MedDiet scores had 15% lower odds of having poor cognitive performance than those with low scores.
The association was significantly stronger for those with the highest MedDiet scores, who had 35% lower odds of having poor cognitive performance than those with the lowest scores.
Results were similar for individuals with mid and high MIND diet scores.
In conclusion, this study shows that greater adherence to MedDiet and MIND diet patterns are associated with better overall cognitive function in older adults and lower odds of cognitive impairment, which could have important public health implications for preservation of cognition during aging.
Why are these two diets so effective in supporting cognitive function. Kate Patton, R.D., a registered dietician with the Cleveland Clinic, explains:
“The combination of lean protein, heart- and brain-healthy omega 3s, antioxidants, and fiber, as well as low levels of added sugar and saturated and trans-fat reduces inflammation to help cut your risk of dementia.”
Moderation is Always Important
Of course, it is important to limit serving sizes, even when closely following the MedDiet and MIND diet. For example, nuts, olive oil and butter are high in fat, so eating too much will result in weight gain. Wine, on the other hand, should be drank in moderation as not to overtax the liver and heart.
Furthermore, don’t be fooled into thinking all breads fall under the grains category. Just because something is made from wheat doesn’t mean that it is healthy. White flour products (sliced breads and rolls), as well as white rice and many cereals, are refined carbohydrates. Some studies have shown that these foods stimulate inflammation. Instead, opt for whole grains such as barley, bulgar, teff, quinoa, and oats.
Although researchers see the need to further explore the role that dietary choices play on cognitive aging and brain health, this study reiterates that healthy food affects our longevity.
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