Food & Drink

Proper diet may lessen risk of dementia, study finds

The MIND diet, an acronym for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay” is a hybrid meal plan based on the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet for hypertension.

A study published in March in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association shows that this diet lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia in the study group. What’s interesting about this study is it specifies what to eat and what to avoid eating.

This was an observational study rather than an intervention study, meaning the researchers gathered data about what people were eating rather than setting up a study that put people on a specific meal plan. They asked the participants to complete a food frequency questionnaire and evaluated the data they gathered from more than 900 volunteers from 2004 through 2013. They found an association between dietary lifestyle changes and the risk for Alzheimer’s dementia. The study showed that the longer you eat the MIND diet and the more you adhere to it, the lower your risk. Those who strongly adhered to the dietary lifestyle changes had a 53 percent decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s dementia. If they “moderately” followed the MIND diet they had a 35 percent decreased risk. The researchers said more studies need to be done to confirm their findings, specifically a randomized controlled trial to test for a cause-and-effect relationship.

Much like the Mediterranean and DASH diets, this diet promotes a plant-based meal plan emphasizing vegetables (dark greens), fruits (especially berries), lean proteins and heart healthy fats while reducing the intake of processed foods and higher saturated fat foods.

What to eat

▪ Three or more servings of whole grains per day.

▪ A salad made of leafy greens plus at least one other non-starchy vegetable each day.

▪ A glass of wine a day (optional).

▪ Nuts as a snack daily (1 ounce).

▪ Beans every other day.

▪ Poultry twice a week.

▪ Berries (specifically blueberries) at least twice a week.

▪ Fish at least once a week.

What to avoid

▪ No more than 1 tablespoon of butter or stick margarine per day.

▪ No more than one serving of any of the following: cheese, fried food, fast food, red meat or sweets/pastries per week.

Alzheimer’s is thought to be caused by a mix of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. These lifestyle changes are something you can do today to reduce your risk.

Shelly Wegman is a registered dietitian at Rex Wellness Centers in Raleigh and Garner. Email: