Researchers recently released findings that show those who eat a Mediterranean diet, and the related MIND diet, have fewer indications of Alzheimer’s disease in their brains.
The Rush University study involved 581 participants who agreed to donate their brains for research. The participants had an average age of 84 at the time of their diet assessment. The participants were asked about their diet.
The participants died an average of seven years following the time of the assessment. Researchers followed up with the participants annually until the time of their death.
The Mediterranean and MIND diets are noted for prioritizing fruits, vegetables and fish.
“These results are exciting—improvement in people’s diets in just one area—such as eating more than six servings of green leafy vegetables per week, or not eating fried foods—was associated with fewer amyloid plaques in the brain similar to being about four years younger,” said study author Puja Agarwal of Rush University in Chicago. “While our research doesn’t prove that a healthy diet resulted in fewer brain deposits of amyloid plaques, also known as an indicator of Alzheimer’s disease, we know there is a relationship and following the MIND and Mediterranean diets may be one way that people can improve their brain health and protect cognition as they age.”
The researchers scored each participant’s diet among 15 categories. They were given a point for regularly including brain-healthy foods such as leafy greens and berries. They lost a point when they said they frequently ate items like red meat and fried foods.
The researchers noted that those who most closely followed the Mediterranean diet tended to have brains similar to those 18 years younger than those who scored the lowest. Those who followed the MIND diet tended to have comparable brains to those 12 years younger who lad lower scores.
“Our finding that eating more green leafy vegetables is in itself associated with fewer signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain is intriguing enough for people to consider adding more of these vegetables to their diet,” said Agarwal. “Future studies are needed to establish our findings further.”
The National Institutes of Health previously noted a relationship between a healthy diet and brain health.
“How could what we eat affect our brains? It’s possible that eating a certain diet affects biological mechanisms, such as oxidative stress and inflammation, that underlie Alzheimer’s,” the NIH said. “Or perhaps diet works indirectly by affecting other Alzheimer’s risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. A new avenue of research focuses on the relationship between gut microbes — tiny organisms in the digestive system — and aging-related processes that lead to Alzheimer’s.”