A new diet for the Mind, linked to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s

Researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago have developed a new diet which could significantly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.

A new study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association

The new MIND diet was created by nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris, PHD, and colleagues at Rush. This proactive approach to health consists of 15 diary components: 10 “Brain Healthy Food Groups” and 5 unhealthy food groups.

Green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine make up the brain-healthy foods, while red meats, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast food are the food groups that should be limited.

Moderate adherence to MIND diet reduced Alzheimer’s risk by 35%

For their study, the researchers analyzed the food intake of 923 Chicago residents between the ages of 58 and 98 who were part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project – an ongoing study that aims to identify factors that may protect cognitive health.

Dietary information was gathered from food frequency questionnaires the participants completed between 2004 and 2013. The researchers scored participants on how closely their food intake matched either the MIND diet, Mediterranean diet or DASH diet, and incidence of Alzheimer’s disease was assessed over an average follow-up period of 4.5 years.

With more than 5 million people in the US are living with Alzheimer’s, and this number is expected to rise to as many as 16 million by 2050.  Currently, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in North America – so adopting this lifestyle diet could be a crucial aide in reducing the risk rate.

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The researchers at Rush found that participants whose food intake closely followed either of the three diets were at lower risk of Alzheimer’s. Participants who followed the Mediterranean diet were at 54% lower risk, those who followed the MIND diet were at 53% lower risk, while followers of the DASH diet had a 39% reduced risk for Alzheimer’s.

Morris says one of the most exciting things about their findings is the fact that even following the MIND diet moderately well indicated significant protection against Alzheimer’s. “I think that will motivate people,” she adds.

However, the researchers note that to really benefit from the MIND diet, followers should not overindulge in unhealthy foods, particularly butter, cheese and fried foods.

While further studies are needed to confirm these findings, the researchers believe the MIND diet shows promise for reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s. “We devised a diet and it worked in this Chicago study,” Morris adds.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle is the number one way to reduce the risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Read more articles on our blog to learn more ways you can reduce the rate of cognitive impairment and improve your health.

March 18, 2015 



DEMENTIA: Can This 3-Step Test Predict Alzheimer’s?

Dementia Test

The Alzheimer’s Association – dedicated to fueling the advancement of early detection and diagnosis of dementia – has developed an easy-to-implement process. Dementia rates are on the exponential rise. It is important that families, and family physicians have the simple tools to determine if further testing is necessary. Imaging tests, and spinal taps are expensive, invasive, and just not practical. The Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Ronald Petersen tells Time Magazine about their new strategy. Read the articles below for more: 

A simple, three-part test that lets doctors identify a person’s risk of developing mild cognitive impairment that could progress to Alzheimer’s disease, the LA Times reports. The first step: Doctors collected data on age, memory issues, family history with Alzheimer’s, and factors linked to the disease, like smoking and diabetes; they then reviewed basic mental exams and psychiatric evaluations. The second step: They analyzed motor function based on how fast a patient could walk a short distance.

Researchers ran the test using 1,449 patients over 70 in Minnesota; each factor believed to boost a person’s MCI risk came with a score, Medical Xpress reports. Patients with scores in the top 25% were seven times more likely to develop MCI than those in the bottom 25%. By performing the first two steps for every patient over 65, Petersen suggests physicians can better understand changes over time. Only if doctors notice red flags should they complete the third step: a blood analysis that could identify genetic factors, like versions of the ApoE gene, linked to Alzheimer’s. Petersen wants to duplicate the results before recommending the strategy, but he hopes better diagnosis can lead to more participation in clinical trials of dementia drugs.

March 19, 2015 



DEMENTIA: Is It Dementia Or Normal Aging? Now There’s a Scale to Figure It Out

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The Huffington Post just published a fascinating report on a new scale to determine if you the risk of dementia. Read the interesting article below: 

Beneath the ubiquitous memory-loss jokes that midlifers make, there is a deep concern and fear of dementia. Now, Mayo Clinic researchers have developed a new scoring system to help determine who among the elderly are at higher risk of developing the memory and thinking problems that can lead to dementia.

The study has been published in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The goal of the study, said its authors in a press release, was to identify the people who are at the highest risk for dementia as early as possible. People with mild cognitive impairment, known as MCI, are at a greater risk of developing dementia, and early intervention provides a wider window for preventative measures.

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The study picked 1,449 Minnesotans between the ages of 70 and 89 who were not experiencing memory and thinking problems. During the almost five-year study, 401 of them — nearly a third — developed MCI. The scoring system considered factors such as the highest level of education attained, medications taken regularly, and whether the subjects had a history of stroke, diabetes or smoking. Researchers measured thinking abilities, symptoms of depression and anxiety, and slow gait. Factors were assigned a score based on how much they contributed to the risk of developing thinking problems. For example, being diagnosed with diabetes before age 75 increased the risk score by 14 points, while having 12 or fewer years of education increased the risk by two points, according to the press release.

The APOE gene, which previously has been linked to a higher risk of dementia, was determined in the study to be only a moderate risk factor.

“This risk scale provides an inexpensive and easy way for doctors to identify people who should be referred to more advanced testing for memory issues or may be better candidates for clinical trials,” said one of the authors of the study, Ronald Petersen.

Predicting who will experience dementia in later life has been a subject of keen interest as baby boomers creep up in age. The National Institutes of Health reportsthat most studies suggest that drinking large amounts of alcohol increases the risk of dementia, while drinking a moderate amount may be protective. Other risk factors include high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol). People with diabetes appear to have a higher risk for dementia, although the evidence for this association is modest, said the NIH. Poorly controlled diabetes, however, is a well-proven risk factor for stroke and cardiovascular disease-related events, which in turn increase the risk for vascular dementia.

March 19, 2015 



DEMENTIA: Can olives help guard against dementia?

dementia diet

Alzheimer’s disease is associated with a change of tau protein in nerve cells. It clumps together to form snarled, spaghetti-like structures, which choke the life out of neurons, damage synapses, and kill off brain function in areas associated with memory retention one tiny piece at a time.

Unlike age and genetics, certain health and lifestyle factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease risk may be controlled. Scientists are exploring prevention strategies to determine whether or not things like exercise, diet, and “brain games” can help delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline. They are also investigating how certain medical conditions, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes, influence risk for cognitive impairment.

The brain requires healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and adequate vitamins and minerals. Consuming too little of these foods and too many complex carbohydrates, processed foods and sugar stimulates the production of toxins in the body. Those toxins can lead to inflammation, the build-up of plaques in the brain and, as a result, impaired cognitive function.

A recent study is testing the hypothesis that certain polyphenols from olives might actually have the ability to slow down the disease. The Mediterranean Diet has certain types and amounts of food. If eaten for a number of years, it has been shown to reduce the risks of developing heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure (hypertension), type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Following the diet has also been linked with a reduced risk of early death and has proved a successful strategy for healthy weight reduction.

“We are testing the hypothesis that certain polyphenols from olives slow down disease,” said study author Gunter Eckert.

This new study looks at the ability of a very specific part of the diet — the olive — to protect against neurological symptoms like memory loss. Scientists at Goethe University Frankfurt, in Germany, believe nutritional components inside the fruit may prevent or even reverse Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Scientists are working to extract polyphenols from the trees. These substances will be tested first in cell-culture dishes for their ability to guard neurological cells from toxins associated with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

“We focus on changes to the power houses of nerve cells (mitochondria), which change early on in Alzheimer’s disease. We are testing the hypothesis that certain polyphenols from olives slow down disease processes in the brain, improve mitochondrial dysfunction and, as a result, provide evidence to suggest they protect against Alzheimer’s disease,” explained Gunter Eckert, a food chemist and lecturer at the Goethe.

March 19, 2015



HEALTHY AGING: Do These ‘Super Agers’ Hold Clues to Healthy Aging?

Healthy Aging

The term SUPER AGERS has been coined to describe those seniors who retain their mental and cognitive alacrity well into their old age.

NBC News noted that many of those who fall into this group hang on to their memory, problem-solving ability and other mental faculties as late as into their 80s. Recent research is uncovering that these people aren’t just lucky – there may be a physiological and neurological reason behind their impressive mental performance. Brain-cell deterioration is notably absent in these super agers.

When examined by brain scans, and even as uncovered by autopsies, the brains of these cognitive stand-outs were notably less deteriorated than those of their contemporaries. Specifically, the portion of the brain associated with memory was found to be much thicker in super agers than in other seniors. In some cases, super agers’ brains physically resembled those of adults decades younger.

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Do super agers hold important clues for researchers?

Cognitive SuperAgers were first identified in 2007 by scientists at Northwestern’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.  Their unusual brain signature has three common components when compared with normal persons of similar ages: a thicker region of the cortex; significantly fewer tangles (a primary marker of Alzheimer’s disease) and a whopping supply of a specific neuron –von Economo — linked to higher social intelligence.

Scientists have identified what causes super agers to retain their mental ability well into their senior years. What hasn’t been determined, however, is why some people display these tremendous physical and cognitive characteristics. While some believe that the “super ager trait” is merely a product of genetics and inheritance, researchers also wonder if there may be a way to replicate these characteristics in other adults through treatment or experience. One study in particular is being conducted by Northwestern University’s cognitive neurology and Alzheimer’s disease center.

Healthy Aging

“We’re living long but we’re not necessarily living well in our older years, and so we hope that the SuperAging study can find factors that are modifiable and that we’ll be able to use those to help people live long and live well,” lead researcher Emily Rogalski told the Huffington Post.

Currently, studies have been unable to determine the extent to which super agers are beneficiaries of superior genetics and how much of their condition is due to lifestyle, but the hope is that further studies will help scientists uncover data that can be practically applied to those with Alzheimer’s or dementia.