Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal article finds MIND diet may be effective in North American populations, though evidence for other populations is less conclusive.

Brain function gradually declines with age, which, in turn, can lead to dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, representing 60-70% of dementia cases globally.  The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the number of individuals with dementia worldwide is 55 million.  This number is expected to reach some 78 million by 2030 and 139 million by 2050.  Moreover, the global financial burden of dementia is expected to rise to $2.8 trillion by 2030.

It is not possible to stop the brain from aging.  Moreover, despite pharmaceutical advances in delaying the onset and slowing the progression of dementia, there is no known cure.  As a result, there is increasing interest in the relationship between modifiable lifestyle factors and optimal brain aging.  Nutrition, in particular, is considered a key modifiable lifestyle factor that may play a pivotal role in preventing and managing dementia.

Recently, nutrition researchers have been shifting away from studying the relationship between individual nutrients or foods and brain aging towards studying the relationship between overall dietary patterns and brain aging.  Studying dietary patterns is thought to be a more effective strategy as it can capture the synergistic benefits of individual nutrients and foods.

The Mediterranean-Dietary Approaches to Systolic Hypertension Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, also know as the MIND diet, was designed to preserve good brain function as we age.  As the name suggests, the MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, emphasizing the consumption of food groups with neuroprotective properties, including berries and leafy green vegetables.

The question is does the MIND diet work?  In response, the authors of The MIND Diet for the Ageing Brain: A Systematic Review, published in Advances in Nutrition, conducted a systematic scientific review of the evidence.  To conduct their research, the authors analyzed the results of 40 studies.  Only two of these studies were randomized controlled trials, often considered the gold standard for research studies, in which researchers randomly assign participants into an experimental group and a control group.  The other 38 studies were observational studies, in which researchers observed individuals without manipulation or intervention.

Specifically, the authors sought to determine the relationship between the MIND diet and cognitive functioning, cognitive decline, and dementia risk.  Moreover, the authors also examined how the MIND diet affected the incidence of age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.

According the authors’ findings, “the majority of studies indicated that the MIND diet reduces the risk of all-cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”  The authors cautioned that “our findings, however, do not conclusively prove the benefits of the MIND diet for brain ageing.”  In particular, “the only randomized controlled trial with good quality did not show protective effects.”

Addressing the mixed results of their systematic review, the authors noted that “many of the cohorts demonstrating protective associations were of North American origin, raising the question of whether the most favorable diet for healthy brain aging is population dependent.”  The authors further noted that “some of the studies originating outside North America showing beneficial associations had adapted the MIND diet to their local eating habits.”  As a result, “further research is required to discover if traditional eating habits with components of the MIND diet are more protective of brain aging than the original MIND diet.”


The Journal of Nutrition – Call for Papers
Nutrition and the Brain
Deadline: December 15, 2024