The importance of eating a healthy diet can contribute to a long and successful retirement, but what exactly constitutes a healthy diet?
What may have been considered healthy when you were younger, may not be serving you quite as well as you age, so should you modify your diet as you age?
Nutritionists believe that you do need to modify your diet as you age and a study released this week has found that older adults who eat a very specific diet can prevent cognitive decline and fight diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets.
Dr Klodian Dhana, the lead author of the study, said that some people don’t develop clinical dementia in their lifetime, despite having enough amyloid plaques and tangles in their brain to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s post-mortem.
“Some have the ability to maintain cognitive function despite the accumulation of these pathologies in the brain, and our study suggests that the MIND diet is associated with better cognitive functions independently of brain pathologies related to Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr Dhana explained.
The researchers examined the association of diet with cognitive functioning in older adults who have been participating in the ongoing memory and ageing project since 1997.
The researchers followed 569 participants, who were asked to complete annual evaluations and cognitive tests to see if they had developed memory and thinking problems.
Beginning in 2004, participants were given an annual food frequency questionnaire about how often they ate 144 food items in previous year.
Using the questionnaire answers, the researchers gave each participant a MIND diet score based on how often the participants ate specific foods.
The MIND diet has 15 dietary components, including 10 ‘brain-healthy food groups’ and five unhealthy groups – red meat, butter and margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast food.
To adhere to and benefit from the MIND diet, a person would need to eat at least three servings of wholegrains, a green leafy vegetable and one other vegetable every day – along with a glass of wine – snack most days on nuts, have beans every other day or so, eat poultry and berries at least twice a week and fish at least once a week.
A person also must limit intake of the designated unhealthy foods, limiting butter to less than one-and-a-half teaspoons a day and eating less than a serving a week of sweets and pastries, whole fat cheese, and fried or fast food.
“We found that a higher MIND diet score was associated with better memory and thinking skills independently of Alzheimer’s disease pathology and other common age-related brain pathologies,” Dr Dhana said.
“The diet seemed to have a protective capacity and may contribute to cognitive resilience in the elderly.
“Diet changes can impact cognitive functioning and risk of dementia, for better or worse,” he continued.
“There are fairly simple diet and lifestyle changes a person could make that may help to slow cognitive decline with ageing, and contribute to brain health.”
How healthy is your diet? How closely do you adhere to the MIND diet as it is outlined above? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?
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