The chances are you know someone who is affected by the debilitating effects of dementia. Dementia is Australia’s greatest cause of disability in Australians over the age of 65, and with predictions of this to affect up to 1 million Australians by 2050, the statistics are grim. Some positive news emerged recently, with a new dietary approach thought to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 35%, suggesting that lifestyle variables such as diet may play a much larger role in neurodegenerative delay than previously considered.
The study published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association was reporting the effects of the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet which combines principles of both the Mediterranean Diet for reducing heart disease risk factors, along with the DASH diet used to help reduce blood pressure. The result is a diet that is not only relatively easy to follow but which appears to have its own unique effects on brain health.
The study researched the diets of more than 900 US residents aged between 58 and 98 years. Specific food questionnaires determined how closely participants’ diets mimicked a Mediterranean, DASH or the new MIND diet approach. Over the 10 year period, participants on the DASH regime reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 39% compared to 53% for the MIND regime and 54% for a traditional Mediterranean approach.
The MIND regimes features 15 dietary components which includes eating more of the 10 core healthy brain foods and fewer of the 5 unhealthy brain foods which include fried foods, pastries, butter and margarine. The core brain foods are foods rich in nutrients and antioxidants thought to act on inflammatory pathways; increase cellular communication and keep cells healthier over time. And best of all, researchers found that the diets did not have to be followed too strictly, general dietary patterns were enough to gain these brain benefits.
So whether you have aging parents, or are simply keen to give your own brain the best protection again neurological degeneration, here are the core dietary habits to put into place, right now:
1) 3 serves of wholegrain each day – forget Paleo, the fibre and nutrient rich grain based crackers, breads, quinoa, barley and corn benefit this dietary approach.
2) A whole salad and one other vegetable each day.
3) A glass of wine each day (a standard drink size).
4) A serve of nuts each day - (a serve = 30g or 15-20 mixed nuts).
5) Beans every other day – chick peas, legumes, kidney beans provide soluble fibre and non-animal protein.
6) Berries and poultry at least twice a week – the berries offer powerful antioxidants while the poultry can be a leaner source of protein than red meat.
7) Fish at least once a week – aim for 2-3 serves of omega 3 rich fish such as salmon or sardines for the cardiovascular benefits.
8) Limit unhealthy brain foods – fried and processed foods, added butter or margarine (1 tbsp. a day) and sugary snacks as much as possible.