The MIND — A Terrible Thing to Waste

  • The MIND diet, a healthy nutrition pattern with less sodium and elements of the Mediterranean nutrition pattern can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia among older adults in the USA.
  • Age, family history and the environment — with special emphasis on nutrition quality are important risks for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s.

A study recently reported by researchers from the Rush University School of Medicine in Chicago noted a stunning decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease in those with better adherence to the MIND* diet, a hydrid diet pattern consisting of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) dietary patterns. Remarkably, the study showed that the risk of Alzheimer’s for those assigned the MIND diet compared to those on a standard Western type nutrition pattern was cut in half. Recent estimates rank this form of dementia the third most common cause of death in the United States.


The MIND diet, reported in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association (2015) showed what we call a dose-response effect. The maximal effect (53% lower risk) was seen in participants who adhered to the diet most rigorously, and for those who followed it only moderately well, the reduction of Alzheimer’s was reduced by about one-third. This type of dose-response effect underscores the validity of the study’s findings and is deserving of our attention. Of note blueberries were the only fruit to be specifically included in the MIND diet. Prior observational studies have showed that many colorful fruits contain large amounts of phytochemicals with antioxidant properties called anthocyanins that are important elements of a healthy dietary pattern and particularly so for brain health. The DASH low sodium component has shown in a number of prior National Heart and Blood Institute studies to lower blood pressure as much as 10 points.

Alzheimer’s is this country’s most dreaded irreversible mind-robbing disease afflicting more than 5 million Americans. This progressive brain disorder slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. Recent estimates rank this form of dementia the third most common cause of death in the United States.

Healthy dietary pattern

There are a growing number of studies that consistently show that the avoidance of a typical Western diet and the consumption of more components of a healthy dietary pattern can decrease memory loss (and cognitive decline). The MIND diet makes use of many of the components of the DASH and typical Mediterranean dietary pattern such as low sodium, low sugar-sweetened beverages and processed foods, high fiber, and increased fruit and vegetable intake. This is the pattern endorsed by the American Heart Association shown to reduce the risk cardiovascular conditions, like hypertension, heart attack and stroke. Since memory and healthy aging are related to vascular health (blood getting to the brain) the possibility that nutrition would also improve brain health and reduce Alzheimer’s was not totally unexpected. The lowering of Alzheimer’s however, was impressive and will likely need to be duplicated by other groups.

Prior studies

Prior studies demonstrated that blood vessel function could be improved when inflammation markers were reduced and healthy antioxidant properties were increased by DASH and Mediterranean food components (vegetables, nuts, legumes) enriched in tocopherols, omega-3 fatty acids, thiamin, lutein, other carotenoids, vitamin K, folate, and certain polyphenols.

Memory loss (cognitive decline) was reduced with increased adherence to the DASH and Mediterranean like dietary pattern (Neurology; 83(16); 2014: 1410–1416). Health aging was examined in the Nurses’ Health Study and found that for those at age 70 years or older who had better adherence to a healthy Mediterranean diet pattern at midlife had a 34% greater odds of being healthy, with no major limitations in physical function and mental health. (The Association Between Dietary Patterns at Midlife and Health in Aging: An Observational Study Samieri, C et al Ann Intern Med. 2013;159(9):584-591). The PREDIMED study used a dietary pattern typical of the Mediterranean dietary pattern, rich in olive oil, nuts, fish, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthier fats and not only showed significant decreases in heart attack, and death rates due to heart disease but also less stroke and that means less memory loss.  The degree that the Mediterranean-like dietary pattern lowers cardiovascular disease is not inconsequential. Eating healthy does as well as many of our best cardiac drugs.


The hybrid MIND diet makes sense — not only for our brain health but for our cardiovascular heath as well. Many of the components of this hybrid diet are consistent with the American Heart Association’s definition of a healthy nutrition pattern that is the cornerstone of the AHA’s ambitious 2020 Impact Goal to reduce the number of heart attacks and strokes in the US by 20% by the year 2020.

MedChefs’ provides the user a tool to customized the healthy nutrition pattern with the ability to track the healthy AHA 2020 nutrition components consistent with the MIND pattern that is so important for optimal health.

*The MIND acronym comes from Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, where DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension

Morris MC, Tangney CC, Wang Y, et al. MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimers Dement. 2015;11:1007-1014.

Morris MC, Tangney CC, Wang Y, et al. MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimers Dement. 2015;11:1015-1022.