MIND Diet May Oppugn Cognitive Decline
Dementia and cognitive decline are significant public health concerns. Alzheimer's dementia is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and impacts an estimated 11% of the population aged 65 and older; prevalence increases to 33% of people aged 85 years or older.1 The US population is getting older; the number of individuals aged 65 and older is expected to increase from 14.1% of the total population in 2013 to 21.7% by 2040.2 There is an increasing need to find cost-efficient and effective interventions to prevent cognitive decline. Increased attention is being given to the role that physical activity and dietary patterns may have in slowing cognitive decline in older adults.3
The MIND diet has 15 components comprised of 10 beneficial brain foods (green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, seafood, poultry, olive oil, and wine) and five harmful brain foods (red meat, butter/stick margarine, cheese, pastries/sweets, and fried/fast food). Target intake frequencies of each component translate into one point for a best possible score of 15. See Table 1 for such thresholds/frequencies for each component.
MIND Diet in Action
• Add garbanzo, black, or kidney beans to salads.
• Snack on walnuts, almonds, or pistachios.
• Include berries at lunch or as a snack daily.
• Use olive oil and vinegar for salad dressing instead of commercial dressings.
• Sprinkle nuts over pasta dishes, cereal, yogurt, or oatmeal.
• Make your own salad dressing by puréeing berries with olive oil and other spices.
• Swap steak and hamburger for white meat chicken or turkey, salmon, or tuna.
• Use beans as a primary source of protein in at least two meals per week.
• Sauté vegetables in olive oil instead of butter.
• Choose fruit or berries for dessert instead of cake or cookies.
• Experiment with different greens such as kale, spinach, collard/mustard greens, or Swiss chard.
In addition, see Table 2 for a sample three-day MIND diet meal plan.
As with any lifestyle change, modifying dietary patterns can be difficult for patients. However, focusing on making changes only a few at a time can help promote successful and lasting change. The MIND diet lends itself to working on one category at a time. The MIND diet focuses primarily on encouraging foods rather than limiting them, which may help with compliance.
In addition to preventing cognitive decline, the MIND diet promotes healthful eating in many other ways. The diet promotes foods known to be helpful for other common health conditions including hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The promotion of lower calorie options such as vegetables, berries, and lean protein could also help promote weight loss. Constipation is a common experience for geriatric patients. However, the MIND diet encourages high-fiber foods such as vegetables, berries, nuts, and beans and may aid with this common problem.
As with any nutrition advice, it is important to provide patients with detailed information regarding type, amount, and frequency of recommended intake. Involving a dietitian will help ensure foods are incorporated appropriately. For example, increasing nuts and olive oil could contribute to excess calories if not eaten in appropriate portions, fish should not be fried, and wine consumption should be no more than one glass per day. Medical history must be reviewed before recommending the MIND diet as it is not appropriate for some common medical conditions. For example, the high potassium and phosphorus content of the MIND diet would not be appropriate for patients with kidney disease, and a general recommendation to eat more whole grains, berries, and beans may not be appropriate for patients with diabetes. Care should be taken to ensure foods are incorporated properly.
— Melanie V. Betz, MS, RD, LDN, CSG, is a clinical dietitian at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, with a clinical focus on medical nutrition therapy for geriatric patients and those in inpatient rehabilitation.
2. Administration on Aging: Aging statistics. Administration for Community Living website. http://www.aoa.acl.gov/Aging_Statistics/index.aspx
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