A light diet based on leafy green vegetables, berries and only a bit of fish might be the solution for reducing the chances of getting Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-70% of all dementia cases worldwide. It is a chronic, slowly progressing disease that destroys brain tissues over time. It affects 1 in 3 Americans over the age of 85 years old, or 1 in 9 over the age of 65, decreasing their quality of life significantly. It also affects their families by requiring extensive care. There are 2 million Americans over 85 living with Alzheimer’s today.
Reducing the incidence of this chronic disease or even delaying its onset is extremely important for the whole population, by adding years of quality living to millions of people and reducing the burden of constant care on an already overwhelmed health system.
A recent study done by the researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL shows a strong connection between three specific diets and a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease at old ages.
They monitored a group of 923 elders who live in retirement communities or senior public housing units in the Chicago area. These elders volunteered in a program called the Rush Memory and Aging Project (MAP). Their ages ranged from 58 to 98 years old, and they were each monitored for an average of 4.5 years between 2004 and 2013. None of them showed any signs of Alzheimer’s disease for at least two years before the monitoring began and were examined each year.
The researchers correlated the effects of eating various amounts of food pertaining to three diets:
- DASH, the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension, a diet for lowering the blood pressure;
- MedDiet, a cultural-based Mediterranean diet;
- MIND, Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) a combination between the two, with an emphasis on the dietary components.
The participants were scored on each of these diets. The stronger delay was observed in the case of the MIND diet, even for those who followed such a diet loosely. Following either the DASH or the MedDiet closely also correlated with a reduced risk.
This means that the elders who followed a light diet that particularly included leafy green vegetables besides all other vegetables, berries as opposed to fruits in general, nuts, beans, whole grains, and fish at least once a week had up to 7.5 more healthy years. They also reduced the consumption of unhealthy foods.
When following the MIND diet closely, the participants in the study were on average 53% less predisposed to develop Alzheimer's Disease than all the others. Even those following the MIND diet only partly had significantly better chances of delaying the disease than the ones barely following it (a 35% less chance of developing the disease).
The most important findings were that, despite taking into account all other lifestyle choices and conditions related to the health of the cardiovascular system, none of them had any significant relevance except for the diet.