While the root causes of Alzheimer’s disease are still being investigated, significant progress has been made in identifying dietary habits that could help prevent the disease. Researchers at Rush University in Chicago found that following the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet could reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by as much as 53%.

The MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet, both of which havepreviously been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack, hypertension and stroke. The MIND diet incorporates elements of both, emphasizing fruits and vegetables over fats and animal protein sources.

In a 2015 study published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, the Rush team reported on a five-year study of 900 seniors. They compared outcomes for a group that followed the MIND diet with groups that followed the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH diet. While those who strictly followed the MIND diet saw a 53% reduction in their risk of developing Alzheimer’s, the study authors were surprised to note that even those who reported moderate adherence with the diet showed a 35% reduction in their risk of Alzheimer’s.

What are the elements of the MIND Diet?

The Rush team says that the MIND Diet is easy to follow. It includes 10 “brain healthy” food groups:

     •   green leafy vegetables

     •   other vegetables

     •   nuts

     •   berries

     •   beans

     •   whole grains

     •   fish

     •   poultry

     •   olive oil

     •   wine

The Diet also includes five food groups to avoid:

     •   red meats

     •   butter and stick margarine

     •   cheese

     •   pastries and sweets

     •   fried or fast food

To follow the diet, researchers recommend eating a salad and one other serving of vegetables every day, snacking on nuts and eating beans every other day.Blueberries and strawberries are highly recommended as having protective properties. A daily glass of wine is also recommended. Limit or eliminate the five foods on the “avoid” list, especially cheese, butter and fried or fast food.

The Rush team is now collaborating with researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to seek further evidence of the link between diet and Alzheimer’s dementia, while other teams are looking into the role that lifestyle factors such as exercise may play. For now, however, eating your vegetables and saying “no” to dessert may be the most effective tools at your disposal for preventing Alzheimer’s disease.