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Update: Blizzard Of Research Around Diets, Dementia

It’s time for an update on recent news about connections between dementia and dietary/nutritional factors. And do we have a list of new findings for you! The news is mostly good… And some of the same dietary factors keep cropping up!

MIND Diet - © Kendall at OberlinThe MIND Diet in pictures: Emphasizes blue-purple, red-yellow fruits and veggies
where the Med diet emphasizes leafy greens, whole grins, veggie proteins…
Both play similar roles in reducing risk of developing dementia.

Magnesium found key to reducing dementia risk

This isn’t the latest learned study to suggest positive connections between dietary magnesium and dementia. But it may be one of the strongest and most conclusive.

More than 6,000 cognitively healthy participants in the United Kingdom aged 40 to 73 found people who consume more than 550 milligrams of magnesium each day have a brain age that is approximately one year younger by the time they reach 55 compared with someone with a normal magnesium intake of about 350 milligrams a day, an abstract of the ASU study report projects.

“There is no cure for dementia and the development of pharmacological treatments have been unsuccessful for the past 30 years. [Thus,] it’s been suggested that greater attention should be directed towards prevention,” study co-author Dr Erin Walsh said.

“The study shows higher dietary magnesium intake may contribute to neuroprotection earlier in the ageing process, and preventative effects may begin in our 40s or even earlier,” study author Khawlah Alateeq of Australian National University said. “This means people of all ages should be paying closer attention to their magnesium intake.”

Med Diet a multi-dimensional dementia risk fighter

Dr. Oliver Shannon, Lecturer in Human Nutrition and Ageing at Newcastle University (UK), led the study with Professor Emma Stevenson and joint senior author Professor David Llewellyn.

An abstract of study report sets the scene: “Scientists analysed data from 60,298 individuals from the UK Biobank, a large cohort including individuals from across the UK, who had completed a dietary assessment. […] The authors scored individuals based on how closely their diet matched the key features of a Mediterranean one. Participants were followed for almost a decade, during which time there were 882 cases of dementia.”

The Newcastle Team found that individuals who ate a Mediterranean-like diet had up to a 23 percent lower risk for dementia than those who did not.

This research is one of the biggest studies of its kind as previous studies have typically been limited to small sample sizes and low numbers of dementia cases.

Limited options, high priority

Shannon said: “Dementia impacts the lives of millions of individuals throughout the world, and there are currently limited options for treating this condition. […] Finding ways to reduce our risk of developing dementia is, therefore, a major priority for researchers and clinicians.”

John Mathers, Professor of Human Nutrition at Newcastle University, said: “The good news from this study is that, even for those with higher genetic risk, having a better diet reduced the likelihood of developing dementia. […] “Although more research is needed in this area, this strengthens the public health message that we can all help to reduce our risk of dementia by eating a more Mediterranean-like diet.”

MIND Diet parallels Med Diet results

While similar, the Mediterranean diet recommends leafy green vegetables, fruit, and three or more servings of fish per week. […] The MIND diet prioritizes green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and collard greens along with other vegetables. The MIND diet also prioritizes berries over other fruit and recommends one or more servings of fish per week. Both the MIND and Mediterranean diet recommend small amounts of wine.

After adjusting for age at death, sex, education, total calorie intake and whether people had a gene linked to a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers found people who scored highest for adhering to the Mediterranean diet had average plaque and TAU neural tangle amounts in their brains similar to being 18 years younger than people who scored lowest. Researchers also found people who scored highest for adhering to the MIND diet had average plaque and tangle amounts similar to being 12 years younger than those who scored lowest.

And eat more leafy greens!

The study also shows an association of regularly following either of these diets with fewer Alzheimer’s disease plaques and tangles, but 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 study team leader Dr. Puja Agarwal, PhD, of RUSH University in Chicago. “Future studies are needed to establish our findings further.”

My take

These studies (and more!) seem to agree pretty closely, and conclusively, that adhering to the MIND or Med diet can help you protect yourself against the early onset of Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

Collectively, the data strongly indicate that reducing your consumption of animal proteins and other potentially harmful ( processed) foods, and increasing your intake of leafy greens, veggie proteins and whole grains, could dramatically improve your health and well being, and help you live a longer, more robust life. And, by helping you avoid development of dementia longer, allow, help you to enjoy it more!

~ Maggie J.