Scientists from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and elsewhere found eating the MIND diet may help decrease the risk of early dementia.
Younger onset dementia is used to describe any form of dementia that develops in people under the age of 65.
Dementia has been diagnosed in people in their 50s, 40s, and even in their 30s. It is sometimes called early-onset dementia.
Previous research had found that the risk of early-onset dementia might be changed by environmental factors and lifestyles, including diet.
In the current study, researchers aimed to evaluate the association between dietary habits and early dementia risk.
They tested 54 newly diagnosed early dementia people in Northern Italy) and 54 caregivers as controls.
The team examined dietary habits through a food frequency questionnaire, assessing both food intake and adherence to dietary patterns, namely the Greek-Mediterranean, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), and the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diets.
The DASH diet is an eating plan based on eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and choosing lean proteins, low-fat dairy, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils, while limiting sweets and foods high in saturated fats.
The MIND diet contains foods rich in certain vitamins, carotenoids, and flavonoids that are believed to protect the brain by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.
The researchers found that cereal intake showed a U-shaped link with early dementia, with risk increasing above 350 g/day. A high intake (>400 g/day) of dairy products was also linked to excess dementia risk.
Although overall fish and seafood intake showed no association with early dementia risk, the team found a U-shaped link with preserved/tinned fish. Eating other fish was linked to a lower risk of dementia.
Similarly, vegetables (especially leafy) intake was linked to a much-reduced dementia risk above 100 g/day, as did citrus and dry fruits.
Overall, sweet intake was not linked to early dementia risk, while dry cake and ice cream intake was linked to a higher risk of dementia, and chocolate intake was linked to a lower risk.
For beverages, the team found no link with early dementia risk apart from a U-shaped link for coffee drinking.
The team also found early dementia risk decreased with increasing adherence to the MIND diet.
On the other hand, intake of the Greek-Mediterranean and DASH diets was linked to lower dementia risk only at very high adherence levels.
The team says this is the first study that explores the association between diets and early dementia risk, and the findings suggest that adherence to the MIND diet may decrease such risk.
The research was published in Nutrients and conducted by Tommaso Filippini et al.
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