Person Holding Bowl Of Leafy Greens And Cod Liver

Adhering to the MIND diet closely can slow the inevitable journey into old age, say scientists.

Although the literature says that people who follow a healthy diet experience a slowdown in the biological aging process and are less likely to develop dementia, the biological mechanism of this protection is not well understood until now.

“A lot of attention to nutrition in dementia research has focused on how certain nutrients affect the brain,” said Daniel Belsky, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology at the Columbia School of Public Health and Columbia Geriatric Center and senior author of the study.

“We tested the hypothesis that a healthy diet protects against dementia by slowing the body’s overall rate of biological aging.”

Mediterranean Diet Foods, Including Seeds And Fruits

The MIND diet emphasizes plant-based foods (especially berries and leafy greens) and limited animal products.

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The MIND diet combines elements of the Mediterranean diet and dietary approaches to stop high blood pressure, focusing on the consumption of plant-based foods (especially berries and leafy greens) and animal products and saturated fat.

Previous studies have shown that adherence to a diet increases and reduces the risk of dementia. But it has also been shown to benefit heart health, diabetes and some cancers.

To measure the effects of diet on aging, researchers used data from the second generation of the Framingham Heart Study, a multicenter study designed to identify common factors or behaviors that contribute to cardiovascular disease.

Of the 1,644 participants included in the analyses, 140 had dementia. The researchers used DunedinPAC, an epigenetic clock developed by Belsky and colleagues at Duke University and the University of Otago, to measure the rate of aging.

The clock acts as a “speedometer of the biological processes of aging” as a person ages, Belsky explained.

“We have some strong evidence that a healthy diet protects against dementia,” said Yang Gu, PhD, associate professor of neurological sciences at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and the study’s other senior author. But the mechanism of this protection is not well understood.” Previous research has linked both eating disorders and dementia to an accelerated rate of biological aging.

“It was a logical next step to test the hypothesis that multisystem biological aging is an underlying mechanism of the diet-dementia associations,” Belsky explained.

The study found that following a high MIND diet could slow the rate of aging as measured by DunedinPACE and reduce the risk of dementia and death. Furthermore, slow Dunedin PACA accounted for 27 percent of the diet-dementia association and 57 percent of the diet-mortality association.

Food Fried In A Pot

The MIND diet says to avoid or limit fried and fast foods.

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“Our findings suggest that a slower rate of aging may be partially linked to a healthy diet that reduces dementia risk, and therefore monitoring the rate of aging may inform dementia prevention,” said first author Allyn Thomas, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Columbia Department of Neurology and Tab Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain.

However, much is unknown about the relationship between diet and dementia, so more studies are needed to understand this link, she added.

Mental nutrition – what to eat and what to avoid

The MIND diet restricts 10 foods and five foods associated with improved or delayed cognitive function.

Important foods include:

  • Whole grains (three or more servings a day)
  • Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, spring greens, kale, and lettuce (one or more servings per day)
  • Other vegetables (one or more servings per day)
  • Nuts (most days)
  • Beans and lentils (three or more servings per week)
  • Berries, including strawberries and blueberries (two or more servings per week)
  • Chicken or turkey (two or more servings per week)
  • Fish (one or more servings per week)
  • Olive oil (as essential oil or ghee)
  • Wine (no more than one small glass per day – more and more likely to harm health than help)

Foods to avoid or restrict:

  • Fried or fast food (less than once a week)
  • Cheese (less than once a week)
  • Red meat (less than four times a week)
  • Pastries and sweets (less than five times a week)
  • Butter (less than one tablespoon per day)