Alzheimer’s disease is gaining ground with more and more people affected. But very encouraging results indicate that a good diet can greatly contribute to slowing the cognitive losses associated with normal aging as well as those associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The MIND protective diet puts on the menu: green vegetables, berries, nuts, whole grain cereals, fish and olive oil.
Alzheimer’s disease currently affects nearly 50 million people worldwide, with a prevalence that could reach 130 million in 2050. For France, the figures are also worrying. One million people affected in France to date, and by 2025, 3 million people, patients and relatives will be affected by this neurodegenerative disease.
Age is of course the main risk factor for Alzheimer’s and there is no doubt that the increase in life expectancy in several regions of the world plays an important role in this increase in dementia cases. That said, we should not forget that several lifestyle factors can also greatly influence the risk of dementia and that this disease can in many cases be prevented.
For example, many studies have clearly shown that the risk factors for cardiovascular disease (smoking, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, physical inactivity) increase the risk of Alzheimer’s in parallel and that quitting smoking, regular physical exercise and healthy eating can all decrease the risk of dementia, even in old age. We are therefore not as deprived in the face of Alzheimer’s disease as one might think and each of us can adopt certain lifestyle habits that will reduce our risk of being affected by the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease: feeding your brain well
The importance of diet for the preservation of brain function is well illustrated by the results recently obtained with the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention of Neurodegenerative Delay). As its name suggests, this diet is a hybrid between a Mediterranean-style diet and the DASH diet, developed to counter hypertension.
The MIND diet is also distinguished by its particular emphasis on leafy green vegetables such as cabbage or spinach as well as berries such as blueberries and strawberries. Concretely, a MIND-type diet favors nine major food families while avoiding as much as possible those that are rich in saturated and trans fats (junk food, fried foods, butter and margarine, red meats, pastries and sweets).
The 9 pillars of the MIND diet
- Olive oil: daily
- Green leafy vegetables: every day
- Nuts: At least 5 servings per week
- Whole grains: at least 3 servings per week
- Legumes: at least 3 servings per week
- Berries (blueberries/strawberries): at least 2 servings per week
- Poultry: at least 2 servings per week
- Fish: at least 1 serving per week
- Vegetables (other than leafy greens): At least 1 serving per week
It is therefore essentially a diet rich in plants and phytochemicals and antioxidants, in which carbohydrates come mainly from fiber and whole grains and where legumes; fish and poultry are the main sources of protein.
Alzheimer’s disease: diet and exercise to fight
And it seems to work: in a study of 923 retired volunteers, American researchers recently observed that people who adhered most strongly to the MIND diet had a 53% lower risk of being affected by dementia! And it is highly likely that this protective effect could be even more pronounced by adding turmeric and cocoa to the MIND diet, two foods that are increasingly recognized to improve cognitive functions. In short, combined with regular physical activity, diet is certainly the best weapon available to us to prevent all chronic diseases, including those affecting our intellectual faculties.
The World Alzheimer Report 2015. The Global Impact of Dementia: An analysis of prevalence, incidence, cost and trends updates.
Morris MC et al. MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimers Dement, ; 11:1007-14.