In a study from Rush University Medical Center, scientists found that older adults could benefit from a specific diet called the MIND diet even when they develop protein deposits, known as amyloid plaques and tangles.
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.
It is the most common cause of dementia in older adults. While dementia is more common as people grow older, it is not a normal part of aging.
During this very early stage of Alzheimer’s, toxic changes are taking place in the brain, including abnormal buildups of proteins that form amyloid plaques and tau tangles.
Previously healthy neurons stop functioning, lose connections with other neurons, and die. Many other complex brain changes are thought to play a role in Alzheimer’s as well.
Some older adults have more memory or thinking problems than other adults their age. This condition is called mild cognitive impairment.
The Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or MIND diet, targets the health of the aging brain.
The diet is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
All three diets highlight plant-based foods and limit the intake of animal and high-saturated fat foods. The MIND diet recommends specific “brain healthy” foods to include, and five unhealthy food items to limit.
Previous research has found that it is linked to a slower cognitive decline and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease dementia in older adults.
In the current study, researchers aimed to examine whether the association of the MIND diet with cognition is affected by common brain lesions.
They used data from the Rush Memory and Aging Project (MAP) and studied 569 people with dietary information, cognitive testing results, and complete autopsy data at the time of these analyses.
The team found a higher MIND diet score was linked to better global cognitive functioning proximate to death.
Furthermore, neither the strength nor the significance of the association changed when Alzheimer’s disease pathology and other brain pathologies were considered.
When the researchers focused on people without mild cognitive impairment before the study, they found the link between the MIND diet and cognitive function was still strong.
These findings suggest that the MIND diet is associated with better cognitive functioning independently of common brain pathology.
The team suggests that the MIND diet may contribute to cognitive resilience in older people.
The study was conducted by Klodian Dhana et al and published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
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