People who follow a Mediterranean or MIND diet may have fewer signs of Alzheimer’s disease in their brain tissue, according to a new study.
Published Wednesday in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, the study found that those who eat these plant-focused diets may have fewer amyloid plaques and tau tangles in their brains than people who don’t follow these plant-based diets. eating way.
A Mediterranean diet, based on the region’s traditional cuisines, emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, legumes, nuts, and whole grains.
The MIND diet stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay” and combines many elements of the Mediterranean and DASH (“Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension”) diet.
“These results are exciting,” said study author Puja Agarwal, PhD, of Rush University in Chicago, in a press release. “While our research does not prove that a healthy diet resulted in fewer brain deposits of amyloid plaques, also known as an indicator of Alzheimer’s disease, we do know there is a connection and following the MIND and Mediterranean diets may be one way on which people can improve their brain health and protect cognition as they age.”
After taking into account other factors in the 581 people they studied, researchers found that “people who scored highest for following the Mediterranean diet had average amounts of plaque and tangles in their brains, comparable to people 18 years younger than who scored the lowest. And for those who scored highest on the MIND diet, their levels of plaque and tangles were similar to those 12 years younger.
While looking at specific nutritional components, researchers found that leafy greens seemed to be the biggest asset.
“People who ate the most green leafy vegetables, or seven or more servings per week, had plaque levels in their brains, which equates to being nearly 19 years younger than people who ate the fewest, with one or fewer servings per week, the release stated.
“Our finding that eating more leafy green vegetables is, by itself, associated with fewer signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain is intriguing enough for people to consider adding more of these vegetables to their diets,” Agarwal said.
Amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain are associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease, although their specific cause is not clear, and the researchers note that they may also occur in some older people whose cognitive functioning is not compromised .
The Mediterranean diet focuses on “vegetables, fruits, and three or more servings of fish per week,” while the MIND diet prioritizes “leaf green vegetables such as spinach, collard greens, and collard greens, along with other veggies… prioritizes berries over other fruits and recommends one or more servings of fish per week,” the release explains.
The study did have limitations. The participants were mostly white, non-Hispanic and older, so the results “cannot be generalized to other populations,” the release states.
“Future studies are needed to further establish our findings,” Agarwal added.
And while this latest study doesn’t prove causation, it follows previous research that shows a similar link between our diet and brain health.
In 2015, researchers discovered the MIND diet can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by a whopping 53%.
Even those who didn’t stick to the diet perfectly, but followed it “moderately well,” cut their risk of Alzheimer’s by about a third, according to the study.