In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

January 31, 2017

Eating Your Way to a Healthy Brain

By In the Loop

Diets aren’t just for losing or maintaining weight anymore. Some are designed to zero in on those foods that have a direct impact on our brain’s health to help us ward off cognitive decline as we age.

When most of us think about our diets, we generally do so with only our waistlines in mind. But a recent story in Forbes Magazine by contributor Alice G. Walton got us thinking about something else that could succumb to age if we don't take care of it: our brains. Walton writes that research is beginning to show that in addition to helping us slim down, some diets may also help maintain our brain's shape, size and function as we age.

Walton digs into the brain-boosting powers of the MIND diet, which she notes currently sits at No. 3 on the U.S. News & World Report annual "Best Diets" list. Developed by a team of scientists at Rush University, the MIND diet stands for "Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay" — a hybrid of U.S. News' top-ranked Mediterranean and DASH diets. (We're sort of partial to another diet that's high on the U.S. News list, the Mayo Clinic Diet.)

Walton notes that the MIND diet was designed by scientists "based on what studies have shown help and harm the brain over time." That includes 10 core food groups that "should be consumed regularly" and five that … should not. Foods that get the green light include "leafy greens, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine." Foods on the yellow/caution/enjoy-in-moderation list include red meat, butter/margarine, cheese, sweets and fried or fast food.

And to back up her case for changing food habits to ward off cognitive decline, Walton points to "a meta-analysis a few years ago from the Mayo Clinic" that examined the cognitive results of those who followed the Mediterranean diet closely against those who did not. "Those in the top third had a 33 percent reduced risk of having any kind of cognitive decline, including Alzheimer's disease, compared to those in the lowest third," she writes. "Healthy people who stuck more closely to the diet also had a 27 percent reduced risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and a 36 percent reduced likelihood of Alzheimer's disease in the future."

And while Walton admits "it's not totally clear" which specific part of the MIND diet, or other so-called "brain-healthy diets," is responsible for these results, she says research has shown that "the components that make up the brain-healthiest diets" are becoming pretty clear. "So have some wine and kale, and leave the pastries out," she writes. (Unless you're writing on deadline, we might add.)

You can read the rest of Walton's story here. Then, let us know what you think by sharing your comments below before you use the social media tools to share this story with others.

Tags: Community, Mayo Clinic Diet

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