The MIND diet - 2023

The MIND diet: what it is and why it fights Alzheimer’s

Once again we come across a diet that does nothing more than confirm Hippocrates’ old recommendation that food be your medicine and medicine your food. In particular, we are talking about the MIND diet. Its name is the acronym for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, which we can translate as ‘intervention diet for neurodegenerative delay’. Its purpose? May our nourishment serve to put us in good hands of ailments such as Alzheimer’s.

It should be remembered that this disease is a degenerative neurological disorder that attacks the neurons of the brain and causes progressive dementia. So far, there is no cure, but this regimen seems to have preventive effects. In particular, it is based on the results of the study carried out by researchers in Chicago (United States) on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. According to these experts, following this diet can help reduce the risk of this disease by 53% if we follow it closely.

However, even if we don’t strictly follow their dietary precepts, we can get a benefit that the study authors have estimated at 35%. The research, carried out by nutrition experts at Harvard and Rush universities, is the result of ten years of research after collecting data on the eating habits of 900 American citizens aged between 58 and 98.

The truth is that, according to their ideologists, nutritionist Martha Clare Morris and her colleagues, this diet is a combination of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, whose translation is ‘dietary approach to stop hypertension’, and our beneficial Mediterranean diet. According to Morris, the MIND diet is also easier to follow compared to the Mediterranean diet, which requires “three to four servings of fruit and vegetables a day”.

Given that this is a diet that leaves olive oil in such a good place, it is not surprising that among its sponsors is INNOLIVA, a company specializing in the production and export of olive oil, which is collaborating with the nutrition department of both universities. This company is in charge of supplying the extra virgin olive oil taken by the subjects of the study.

What does the MIND diet propose?

In particular, those responsible for its production propose ten food groups considered healthy for the brain:

  • Green leafy vegetables

  • Other vegetables

  • Dried fruit

  • Blueberries

  • Pulses

  • Whole grain cereals

  • Fish

  • Chicken

  • Olive oil

  • Wine (one glass per day)

Morris, the lead author of the research, especially praises one of these products: “Blueberries are one of the most potent foods in terms of brain protection. The truth is that a priori it may be striking that this specialist only mentions this fruit, while the rest considers them, apparently, dispensable. However, it does place the strawberry at about the same height as the cranberry: “Strawberries have also performed well in previous studies of the effect of food on cognitive function.

In this diet, small concessions are allowed to five food groups that are considered unhealthy, such as red meat, butter and margarine, cheese, pastas and sweets, as well as fried or fast food. “The longer a person consumes the MIND diet, the lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s,” says Morris.

Vitamin E, vitamin B12 and folates

All experts agree that the disease has a genetic basis but, as José Enrique Campillo, a doctor and expert in nutrition, points out in his book ‘Eat healthy to live more and better’, our diet is decisive. “Today we know that, as happens with many other genetically based diseases, we can activate these harmful genes, or keep them silent, without them showing their faces, depending on our diet and lifestyle,” says this doctor.

Campillo also highlights the role of vitamin E: “Being a fat dissolves in the fat of the membranes of neurons and exerts its protective effect there. We find this vitamin in the pillar of our beloved Mediterranean diet. Yes, the olive oil. Like nuts, tomato seeds and peppers.

Blueberries have been proven to be one of the most protective foods for our brains

This expert defends that for the health of our brain we must “consume polyunsaturated fats abundant in fish, especially blue fish, shellfish and nuts”. In addition, in his book he recommends that we do not lose sight of two vitamins that are capable of blocking the increase in homocysteine in the brain, whose accumulation in neurons contributes to dementia.

Which ones are we talking about? From folate, which is abundant in leafy vegetables, whole grains and foods fortified with folic acid; and from vitamin B12, which is found in meats and some seafood products, such as octopus.

Also read: Paleo diet