The diets linked to reduced signs of Alzheimer’s disease

Mar 14, 2023
Eating a diet rich in green leafy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, and fish may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Source: Getty Images.

A recent study suggests that those who consume diets rich in green leafy vegetables, as well as other vegetables, fruits, whole grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, and fish, may have a lower likelihood of developing amyloid plaques and tau tangles in their brains, which are known indicators of Alzheimer’s disease.

As part of the Association of Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay and Mediterranean Diets With Alzheimer Disease Pathology study, researchers examined how closely participants followed the MIND and Mediterranean diets, both of which recommend a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, but the MIND diet emphasizes green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collard greens, and berries over other fruits.

The Mediterranean diet recommends three or more servings of fish per week, whereas the MIND diet recommends one or more. Additionally, both diets suggest moderate wine consumption.

In the study, 581 individuals with an average age of 84 during the diet assessment, who had agreed to donate their brains for research on dementia, completed annual questionnaires about their consumption of various food categories.

On average, the participants passed away seven years after the study began. At the time of death, 39 per cent of the participants had been diagnosed with dementia, and following an autopsy, 66 per cent were found to meet the criteria for Alzheimer’s disease.

Source: Getty Images.

Researchers analyzed the amounts of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in participants’ brains and ranked their diets based on the Mediterranean and MIND diets.

The Mediterranean diet consists of 11 food categories, with participants receiving a score of zero to 55 based on how closely they adhered to the diet. The MIND diet includes 15 categories, with one point awarded for each of the 10 brain-healthy food groups and one point deducted for five unhealthy food groups.

Researchers separated participants into three groups based on their diet scores and compared those with the highest and lowest scores. After adjusting for other factors, the researchers found that individuals with higher scores in the Mediterranean diet had average plaque and tangle amounts similar to people 18 years younger than those with lower scores.

Similarly, individuals with higher scores in the MIND diet had average plaque and tangle amounts similar to people 12 years younger than those with lower scores. The researchers also discovered that individuals who ate the highest amounts of green leafy vegetables had brain plaque levels corresponding to people almost 19 years younger than those who ate the fewest vegetables. It should be noted that the study did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

“These results are exciting—improvement in people’s diets in just one area—such as eating more than six servings of green leafy vegetables per week, or not eating fried foods—was associated with fewer amyloid plaques in the brain similar to being about four years younger,” said study author Puja Agarwal, PhD, of RUSH University in Chicago.

“While our research doesn’t prove that a healthy diet resulted in fewer brain deposits of amyloid plaques, also known as an indicator of Alzheimer’s disease, we know there is a relationship and following the MIND and Mediterranean diets may be one way that people can improve their brain health and protect cognition as they age.”

Although the study reveals a correlation between a regular intake of these diets and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, it does not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

“Our finding that eating more green leafy vegetables is in itself associated with fewer signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain is intriguing enough for people to consider adding more of these vegetables to their diet,” said Agarwal.

“Future studies are needed to establish our findings further.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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