In a groundbreaking study published on March 8, 2023, in Neurology®, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology, researchers from Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TDMU) have discovered an intriguing link between diet and Alzheimer’s disease.
This study suggests that eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats – similar to the Mediterranean and MIND diets – may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The research team, led by Dr. Puja Agarwal of RUSH University in Chicago, analyzed data from 60,298 participants from the UK Biobank. They tracked how closely the participants’ diets matched the Mediterranean and MIND diets.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits, and fish, while the MIND diet focuses on green leafy vegetables and berries, in addition to other healthy foods. Both diets recommend modest wine consumption.
Over the course of a decade, 882 of the participants developed dementia. The researchers also took into account each person’s genetic risk for dementia, known as polygenic risk.
They found that those who followed these diets more closely had fewer amyloid plaques and tau tangles in their brains – common indicators of Alzheimer’s disease.
One of the key findings was that improving diets in just one area, such as eating more green leafy vegetables, was linked to fewer amyloid plaques, equivalent to being about four years younger.
This suggests that dietary changes, even in small ways, can have a significant impact on brain health.
The participants, who had an average age of 84 at the time of their diet assessment, agreed to donate their brains for research after death.
The analysis of their brains post-mortem revealed that 66% met the criteria for Alzheimer’s disease, despite 39% having been diagnosed with dementia before death.
Researchers then examined the relationship between the participants’ diets and the amounts of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in their brains.
They found that higher adherence to these diets correlated with brain health equivalent to being significantly younger in terms of plaque and tangle accumulation.
Specifically, those who scored highest in adhering to the Mediterranean diet had brain health similar to being 18 years younger, while for the MIND diet, it was 12 years.
Additionally, a one-point higher MIND diet score corresponded to typical plaque amounts of participants who were 4.25 years younger.
Interestingly, consuming higher amounts of green leafy vegetables alone (seven or more servings per week) was associated with brain health nearly 19 years younger than those who ate the least amount.
Dr. Agarwal emphasized the importance of these findings and the need for further research, particularly in diverse populations, as this study mostly involved white, non-Hispanic older individuals.
The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, offers promising insights into how dietary choices can influence the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, underscoring the potential of diet as a powerful tool in combating this debilitating condition.
If you care about Alzheimer’s, please read studies about the likely cause of Alzheimer’s disease , and new non-drug treatment that could help prevent Alzheimer’s.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about diet that may help prevent Alzheimer’s, and results showing some dementia cases could be prevented by changing these 12 things.
The research findings can be found in Neurology.
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