June 7

Dementia care: Reduce risk by eating the MIND diet

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Dementia is a collection of symptoms associated with brain damage caused by various diseases. It is often mistakenly thought of as a disease itself, but it specifically relates to the symptoms associated with brain decline. One of the first casualties of dementia is memory loss, which is often mild at first, such as misplacing keys. Over time, the symptoms such as memory loss place a tighter grip on the brain and cause a person to disconnect from their surroundings.

One of the most promising developments is the link between certain diets and their protective components.

According to Mays Al-Ali, nutritionist at HealthyMays.com

The DASH diet also protects against many cardiovascular risk factors of dementia, said Al-Ali.

The DASH diet plan emphasises high intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, as well as increased potassium and reduced sodium intake.

“Some of the dementia protective effects of DASH include lower blood pressure and blood low‐density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, weight reduction, reduced oxidative stress and inflammation, improved insulin sensitivity, and reduced incidence of diabetes,” explains Al-Ali.

Devising a diet to address the drawbacks

As she explained, although both the Mediterranean-based diet and the blood pressure–lowering DASH have demonstrated protective effects on cardiovascular conditions that can adversely affect the brain, neither is specific for the levels and types of foods shown to protect the brain against neurodegeneration.

, there are two main diets that have come under the microscope – the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and the Mediterranean-style diet.

As Al-Ali explains, a Mediterranean-style diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes and unrefined cereals, with moderate amounts of dairy products, low meat but regular fish intake.

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“This seems to deliver all nutrients in adequate amounts to support maintenance of cognitive function and reduce the risk of cognitive decline in healthy older persons,” she said.

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The DASH diet also protects against many cardiovascular risk factors of dementia, said Al-Ali.

The DASH diet plan emphasises high intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, as well as increased potassium and reduced sodium intake.

“Some of the dementia protective effects of DASH include lower blood pressure and blood low‐density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, weight reduction, reduced oxidative stress and inflammation, improved insulin sensitivity, and reduced incidence of diabetes,” explains Al-Ali.

Devising a diet to address the drawbacks

As she explained, although both the Mediterranean-based diet and the blood pressure–lowering DASH have demonstrated protective effects on cardiovascular conditions that can adversely affect the brain, neither is specific for the levels and types of foods shown to protect the brain against neurodegeneration.

Among the different types of vegetables, the green leafy variety has been identified as having the strongest protective effects against cognitive decline, she noted.

“Studies show that adults aged 50 plus who followed a similar eating plan based on the MIND diet for four years did not experience any memory loss and after only four months on this type of eating plan, adults performed as if they were nine years younger on reading and writing speed tests,” Al-Ali reported.

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So, what are the key components?

According to Al-Ali, these are the main foods to be eaten regularly whilst limiting intake of red meat, processed products and baked goods:

1) Raw leafy greens
Darker greens, such as spinach, kale and romaine, have more brain-boosting antioxidants and vitamin K. Try to eat one cup daily.

2) Cruciferous vegetables
Broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts are high in vitamin K and glucosinolates, which have an antioxidant effect. Include at least three 1/2 cup servings in your diet a week.

3) Blueberries
All berries have a positive effect on brain health, but blueberries have been studied the most. They contain flavonoids, which activate brain pathways associated with less cellular ageing. Try to consume 1/2 cup of any berries three times a week.

4) Beans
It’s unknown exactly what makes beans, lentils and chickpeas good for brain health, but it’s likely due to a combination of antioxidants, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Include 1/2 cup in your diet as a replacement for red meat at least twice a week.

5) Nuts
Unsalted nuts are high in antioxidants and healthy fats. Walnuts are particularly high in omega-3 fatty acid, a brain-protective nutrient. Aim for a handful of nuts daily.

6) Fish
The iodine and iron in all types of fish are thought to help maintain cognitive function. Fattier fish, like salmon and trout, also contain brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids. Aim for one to two servings per week.

7) Whole grains
Choose fibre-rich whole grains like oats, brown rice and whole-grain wheat to offset your intake of refined grains.

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8) Olive oil
It contains monounsaturated fats and vitamin E, as well as antioxidants. Aim for extra virgin organic olive oil and try not to fry with it as it has a low smoke point so can go rancid easily and give rise to inflammation. Add it to cooked food once cooled or on salad dressings. Avocado or coconut oil is best for cooking.





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