A pilot study involving 106 participants of the Rush Memory and Aging Project who had experienced a stroke followed participants for an average of 5.9 years, testing their cognitive function and monitoring their eating habits using food journals. It was found that those whose diets scored highest on the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet score had substantially slower rates of cognitive decline than those who scored lowest. The estimated effect of the diet remained strong even after taking into account participants' level of education and participation in cognitive and physical activities. Those who instead scored high on the Mediterranean or DASH diets did not show the same slower decline.
Both the Mediterranean and DASH diets have been shown to be protective against coronary artery disease and stroke, but this finding suggests the MIND diet is better for overall brain health.
The MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. It has 15 components: 10 “brain-healthy food groups” and five unhealthy groups (red meat, butter, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast food).
To adhere to the MIND diet, you need to
- eat at least three daily servings of whole grains
- eat a green leafy vegetable and one other vegetable every day
- drink a regular glass of wine
- snack most days on nuts
- have beans every other day or so
- eat poultry and berries at least twice a week
- eat fish at least once a week
- limit butter to less than 1 1/2 teaspoons a day
- eat less than 5 servings a week of sweets and pastries
- eat less than one serving per week of whole fat cheese, and fried or fast food.
The researchers stress that this is a preliminary study, observational only. They are currently seeking participants for a wider, intervention study.