Sustainability Tip: Reducing Alzheimer’s 53% with a plant-focused Mediterranean or MIND diet

Experts say Mediterranean diets can help cleanse the brain. Credit: golero, Getty Images

By Isabella Deza, Alliance Intern from George Mason University

If you want to increase your chances of healthy aging and avoiding Alzheimer’s, consider a plant-focused Mediterranean or MIND (“Mediterranean-Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay”) diet. As CBS News shared, a new study in Neurology found people who follow these diets may have fewer signs of Alzheimer’s (amyloid plaques and tau tangles) in their brain tissue. “These results are exciting,” said study author Puja Agarwal of Rush U. “The MIND and Mediterranean diets may be a way people can improve their brain health and protect cognition as they age.”

Although this study does not prove causation, it does follow previous comparable research results associated with our diet and brain health. The MIND diet may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 53%, researchers found in 2015. The good news is that even participants in the new study who didn’t stick to the diet perfectly, but followed it “moderately well,” reduced their risk of Alzheimer’s by about a third, according to the study. 

Researchers found “people who scored highest for adhering to the Mediterranean diet had average plaque and tangle amounts in their brains similar to being 18 years younger than people who scored lowest” and it was 12 years younger for those on the MIND diet. They found leafy greens appeared to be the biggest asset, with those eating the highest amounts (7 or more servings per week) had plaque amounts equivalent to being almost 19 years younger than people who ate the fewest (1 or fewer servings per week).

Surprisingly, you don’t have to fully adopt one of these diets to get benefits. “Our finding that eating more green leafy vegetables is in 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 diet,” said Agarwal.

A Mediterranean diet contains lots of leafy greens and emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, legumes, nuts and whole grains. The MIND diet prioritizes green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and collard greens along with other vegetables and highlights berries over other fruit, recommending one or more servings of fish per week. Amidst all of the doom and gloom regarding the skyrocketing Alzheimer’s epidemic and its tragic impact on so many families, it’s nice to know there are proactive steps we can all take to live longer, healthier lives.

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