Plant-based diet may reduce Alzheimer's risk

Basket of fresh leafy vegetables
Basket of fresh leafy vegetables
Shutterstock

A diet rich in green leafy vegetables, beans, berries, whole grains and wine can help to slow normal brain ageing and cognitive decline, researchers said.

Diet slows cognitive decline

Cognitive decline is a normal part of ageing but a study by scientists at Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago showed that elderly adults who strictly followed the MIND diet were 7.5 years younger cognitively over a period of nearly five years than those who adhered the least.

"The study findings suggest that the MIND diet substantially slows cognitive decline with age," Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Centre, and her team said in a report in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia.

Read: What is Alzheimer’s disease

In an earlier study, the researchers showed that the diet developed at the Rush University Medical Centre may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

MIND, or Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, is a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil and vegetables and the DASH eating plan designed to control high blood pressure.

It consists of 15 dietary components and recommends at least three servings of whole grains, a salad and another vegetable each day and a glass of wine. Beans and poultry should be eaten at least twice a week and fish once a week.

Further modifications

Followers of the diet limit the amount of the five unhealthy food groups – red meat, butter, stick margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets and fried or fast food – they eat.

Read: Processed red meat causes heart failure

The only fruits in the MIND diet are berries.

The researchers tested the cognitive ability of 960 adults with an average age of 81.4 years at 40 retirement community and senior public housing units in the Chicago area over a period of 4.7 years. They uncovered a slower decline in mental ability among the elderly who adhered most closely to the diet.

"Everyone experiences decline with ageing; and Alzheimer's disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. which accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia's cases," Morris said in a statement.

"There is still a great deal of study we need to do in this area, and I expect that we'll make further modifications as the science on diet and the brain advances.

Read more:

Vegetarian diet a good alternative

Diet, cognitive ability may play role in diabetes  

How diet and physical activity affect brain function 

Image: Basket of vegetables from Shutterstock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes
34% - 9250 votes
No
66% - 17780 votes
Vote