People who ate diets rich in green leafy vegetables as well as fruits, whole grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, and fish had less plaque and tau tangles in their brains than people who did not follow one of these eating patterns, according to a study published on March 8th in the online journal Neurology.
Plaque and tau tangles are both found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers analyzed the brains of 581 people who agreed to donate their brains to research when they died. The participants completed annual questionnaires on how much food they ate in various categories. They lived an average of seven years after the start of the study.
During an autopsy, researchers determined the number of plaques and tau tangles. They also examined the questionnaires and ranked the diet quality of each person. When analyzed after death, 66% of the participants met the criteria for Alzheimer’s disease.
For people following the Mediterranean diet, there were 11 categories. Each person scored between 0 and 35 based on their adherence to eating whole grain cereals, fruits, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, fish, and potatoes. They were given low scores for eating red meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products. Those with the highest scores had an average of 35 points and those with the lowest had an average score of 26.
There were 15 categories for the MIND diet. These participants were given one point for each of the 10 brain-healthy food groups and lost a point if they ate foods in the five unhealthy food groups. The healthy food groups included green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine. The unhealthy groups included red meats, butter and margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried and fast foods.
Those with the highest scores had an average score of 9. Those with the lowest scores had an average of 6.
The participants with the highest scores in the Mediterranean diet had average plaque and tau tangles, similar to someone 18 years younger than those with the lowest scores.
Those with the highest scores in the MIND diet group had plaques and tau tangles similar to people 12 years younger than the participants with the lowest scores.
For every increase of one point, the researchers found the participants had typical plaque amounts equal to people 4.25 years younger. The scientists also looked at how certain foods affected brain health. For example, people who had seven or more servings per week of green leafy vegetables had brain health equal to those 19 years younger than those who ate the fewest.
“Both the Mediterranean and MIND diets are considered plant-forward. Protein sources from meat are still a part of the meal but not the largest portion,” said Caroline Thomason, RD, a Virginia-based dietitian. “There are a few key players regarding healthy aging and the MIND diet: Leafy greens, nuts, berries, beans, fish, olive oil, poultry, whole grains, and wine all were associated with a decreased level of plaque in their brain that leads to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.”
Although this study focused on brain health, experts say choosing the Mediterranean or MIND diet can also improve your heart and overall health.
Association of Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay and Mediterranean Diets With Alzheimer Disease Pathology
Puja Agarwal, Sue E. Leurgans, Sonal Agrawal, Neelum Aggarwal, laurel J Cherian, Bryan D James, Klodian Dhana, Lisa L. Barnes, David A. Bennett, Julie A. Schneider
Neurology Mar 2023, 10.1212/WNL.0000000000207176; DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000207176
Eileen Bailey (March 8, 2023). Mediterranean, MIND Diets Can Help Reduce Alzheimer’s Traits in Brain Tissue. Healthline. Retrieved March 14th from: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/alzheimers-people-who-adhere-to-mind-mediterranean-diets-have-fewer-plaques-tangles
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