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The Villages
Thursday, June 8, 2023

Plant-based diets help to prevent dementia

Dr. Gabe Mirkin

A review of 14 studies with a total of 224,049 participants found that the MIND diet (“Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay”) is associated with reduced dementia risk for middle-aged and older adults (JAMA Psychiatry, May 3, 2023), and with reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease (Alzheimers Dement, Sept 2015;11(9):1007-14).

The Mediterranean, DASH and MIND diets are all similar plant-based diets.
• The DASH diet helps to lower high blood pressure and high cholesterol by including foods that are rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium, and by restricting foods that are high in sodium, saturated fats and added sugars. See DASH (High-Plant) Diet for Heart Health, Weight Loss and Diabetes Prevention/Control
• The Mediterranean diet emphasizes plant-based whole foods and healthy fats and restricts processed foods, characteristic of the traditional diets in the Mediterranean area (Greece and the southern areas of Italy, Spain and France). You eat mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes,and sources of healthful fats such as olive oil, seafood and nuts.
• The MIND diet is derived from the DASH and Mediterranean diets. It encourages consumption of vegetables, berries, nuts, olive oil, whole grains, fish and beans. The MIND diet includes:
• leafy green vegetables – at least 6 servings a week
• other vegetables – at least 1 serving a day
• berries – at least 2 servings a week
• whole grains- at least 3 servings a day
• fish – 1-2 servings a week
• poultry – 2 servings a week
• beans – 3 servings a week
• nuts – 5 servings per week
• olive oil
Foods to limit or avoid on this diet are red meat, sweets, fried foods, cheese, butter and margarine.

Dementia and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
Dementia usually starts with inability to remember names, places and faces. This often progresses to unreasonable behavior, loss of reasoning, loss of ability to solve simple problems and normal daily functions. It usually begins in later life. In the early stages, doctors diagnose Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) that often, but not always, progresses eventually to people not being able to take care of themselves. Rates of dementia and mild cognitive impairment rise sharply with aging. Dementia affects three percent of North American adults between 65 and 69, 22 percent of those in ages 85-89, and 35 percent of those in their 90s (JAMA Neurol, 2022;79(12):1242-1249).

More Studies on the Influence of Diet on Dementia
The extensive research showing that plant-based diets help to prevent and treat dementia includes:
• Mediterranean diet helps to slow progression from mild cognitive impairment to dementia (Arch Neurol, 2009 Feb;66(2):216-25).
• Plant-based diet helps to slow progression of Alzheimer’s disease (Expert Rev Neurother, 2011 May;11(5):677-708).
• Diet to Stop Hypertension (DASH), and Mediterranean-DASH help to slow progression of dementia and mild congnitive progression (Adv Nutr, 2019 Nov 1;10(6):1040-1065).
• The MIND diet was associated with a marked reduction in cognitive decline during an average of almost 5 years (Alzheimers Dement, 2015 Sep;11(9):1015-22).
• DASH- and Mediterranean-like dietary patterns slow cognitive decline in older persons (Neurology, 2014 Oct 14;83(16):1410-6).
• MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease (Alzheimers Dement, 2015 Sep;11(9):1007-14).

Studies of Plant-Based Diets to Reduce Risk of Other Diseases
• Mediterranean and DASH and MIND Diets Slow Cognitive Decline After Stroke (J Prev Alzheimers Dis, 2019;6(4):267-273).
• Plant-based Diets help Prevent Brain Ageing in the Elderly (Curr Nutr Rep, 2018 Sep;7(3):139-149).
• MIND diet reduces 12-year incidence of cognitive impairment in an Australian longitudinal cohort study (Alzheimers Dement, 2019 Apr;15(4):581-589).
• Plant-based diets associated with reduced risk for atrial fibrillation (Eur J Nutr, Apr 29, 2023).
• MIND diet associated with reduced obesity risk (Front Nutr, 2023 Apr 11;10:1078961).
• MIND diet associated with reduced risk for high blood pressure (Front Nutr, 2023 Mar 14;10:1129667).

My Recommendations
Your lifestyle helps to determine your susceptibility to develop dementia with aging. To reduce your chances of becoming demented:
• avoid sugared drinks including fruit juices
• severely restrict all sugar-added foods and other refined carbohydrates
• restrict fried foods
• avoid red meat (blocks insulin receptors)
• avoid processed meats
• eat a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, beans, seeds, whole unground grains, seeds, nuts and other healthful plant-based foods
• avoid smoking and being around smokers
• avoid alcohol or take no more than one drink a day
• lose weight if overweight
• keep hydroxy vitamin D above 30 ng/mL
• exercise regularly

Dr. Gabe Mirkin is a Villager. Learn more at www.drmirkin.com

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