These two diets linked to better brain function in older adults

MIND diet
© TijanaM

We recently wrote about a study looking at low carb versus low fat diets; the conclusion, as far as weight loss was concerned, was that it didn't make a difference. What was more important was that the diet chosen worked with the individual.

But food habits go beyond a svelte silhouette and have all kinds of health benefits and risks associated with them. ANd when it comes to brain health, for instance, diet choice does appear to make a difference, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study authors takes a look at diet and cognitive abilities in older adults; the data is pretty eye-opening. They conclude:

This study shows that greater adherence to MedDiet and MIND diet patterns are associated with better overall cognitive function in older adults and lower odds of cognitive impairment.

The perks of the Mediterranean diet are not a mystery; it's constantly cited as one of the healthiest eating styles around. It is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, potatoes, nuts, olive oil and fish. Processed foods, fried and fast foods, snack foods, red meat, poultry and whole-fat dairy foods are on the no-no list.

The MIND diet – an acronym derived from a mouthful of words: Mediterranean-DASH diet Intervention for Neurodegeneration Delay – is like a subset of the Mediterranean diet and is based on 15 types of foods. Ten brain-healthy ones (green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, seafood, poultry, olive oil, and wine) and five unhealthy ones to avoid (red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries, sweets and fried/fast foods).

The team of researchers looked at data from 5,907 older adults, all participants in the Health and Retirement Study. After comparing the diets of participants with their performance on cognitive tests, including memory and attention skills, here's what they found:

Older people who ate Mediterranean and MIND-style diets scored significantly better on the cognitive function tests than those who ate less healthy diets. In fact, older people who ate a Mediterranean-style diet had 35% lower risk of scoring poorly on cognitive tests. Even those who ate a moderate Mediterranean-style diet had 15% lower risk of doing poorly on cognitive tests. The researchers noted similar results for people who ate MIND-style diets.

With other research recently finding that one in three cases of dementia are preventable – with nine modifiable lifestyle changes that can be started in early life – it looks like there is now another way to start taking care of your cognitive health. Thankfully, both of these eating styles offer variety and beautiful delicious food; and the lesson is short and sweet: Eat smartly, stay smart.

Related Content on Treehugger.com