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Q) I understand there is a new diet that just might help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. My grandfather has been recently diagnosed with this and I want to do whatever I can to minimize my risk.
A) There is more than some degree of truth in this recent media release. A new diet, known as the MIND diet seems like it has a profound effect on cognitive health (i.e. brain function) as you age and can quite possibly reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s.
The MIND diet basically combines 2 proven diets – the DASH diet which is best known for its blood pressure lowering effects and the Mediterranean diet which receives wide acclaim for its positive impact on cardiovascular health- and zeros in on the specific foods in each that seem to have a positive impact upon your brain.
The MIND diet, which stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay” was developed in the US through funding by the National Institute on Aging.
The hype for this diet is based on a study of 1000 elderly adults who filled out repeated food questionnaires and submitted themselves to ongoing neurological testing for an average of 4.5 years.
Upon correlating their results, the researchers concluded that those participants who most closely followed the recommendations of this diet had brains that functioned as if they were 7.5 years younger and they seemed to have a 53% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
The even better news is that even those participants who followed the diet only moderately well seemed to accumulate positive cognitive benefits as well in that they showed a 35% reduction in Alzheimer’s risk.
The beauty of this diet is that it incorporates a broad group of foods and gives you permission to stick to the guidelines loosely meaning that this may be one of the very few diets that is actually easy to follow in the long term.
It also seems to have very positive cardiovascular benefits (not surprising given its origins) and may well lead to some degree of weight loss (although it was not designed with this in mind) both of which are important health issues for many of us regardless of our concerns about the future of our brain.
The crux of the diet is to focus on eating healthy “brain building” foods: all vegetables (green leafy vegetables in particular), nuts, berries (especially blueberries if possible), fish, poultry, extra virgin olive oil, beans, whole grains and WINE!!!
At the same time, adherents to this diet try their best to avoid the foods that comprise the “brain killer” list: red meats, butter and stick margarine, cheeses, pastries and sweets, fast and fried foods.
So, how does the diet actually work?
As always, the devil is in the details. Each day you should eat 3 servings of whole grains, a salad and another vegetable, along with drinking a single glass of wine for females or two for males (remember for those non-drinkers, you can skip the wine as this diet does not have to be followed religiously).
On most days you snack on nuts and every other day eat half a cup of beans. At least twice a week you should eat poultry and a half-cup serving of berries and you dine on fish at least weekly.
Olive oil (get a better quality one of the extra virgin variety) should be your oil of choice for all your cooking needs.
As far as limiting the unhealthy foods: aim for less than 4 servings a week of red meats, fewer than 5 weekly servings of sweets and pastries, less than 1 tablespoonful of butter or margarine a day and no more than a serving a week of cheese, fast or fried food.
There is no calorie counting required, but maintaining a healthy weight has long been recognized as being helpful towards cognitive functioning.
When 38 different diets were assessed and then ranked by experts, the MIND diet came out in a tie for first for being the easiest one to follow, a tie for second for best diet overall (DASH came first), fourth for both the best diabetes diet and a healthy heart diet and 16th for the best weight loss diet.
Unlike most diets, people tend not to go around starved since a calorie restriction is not required (although it can be added for greater weight loss) and green leafy vegetables tend to create a sensation of fullness.
Eating out should be fine as it will be relatively easy to find menu items that fit within these guidelines.
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are brutal disorders to both the patient and their family. There are no reasonably effective medications out there right now.
If your family tree tells you that you are at risk, you would be wise to consider adopting as many of these recommendations as you can. Your brain may well thank you some day.
For more information about this or any other health related questions, contact the pharmacists at Gordon Pharmasave, Your Health and Wellness Destination in Kincardine and Port Elgin.
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Friday, August 26, 2016