"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Strengthening brain health through nutrition can take a few years

July 19, 2023 – Researchers studying a food regimen to enhance brain health were surprised by the outcomes of a recent experiment, because the brain health of subjects on the MIND food regimen was no higher after three years than that of subjects on a control food regimen.

About half of the 604 participants followed the Mediterranean–DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay food regimen for 3 years. The other half underwent only mild calorie restriction.

“In cognitively unimpaired participants with a family history of dementia, changes in cognitive abilities and brain MRI results … did not differ significantly between those who followed the MIND diet and those who followed the control diet,” the study authors wrote.

The MIND food regimen improved the brains of those that followed it for 3 years. Magnetic resonance imaging scans showed fewer small lesions and more gray and white matter, the cognitive center of the brain and the “communication highway,” respectively. CNN reported.

But the brains of participants who didn’t follow the MIND food regimen showed similar improvements.

“We really expected the MIND diet to be more effective than the control group, so we were quite surprised by the result,” said lead creator Lisa Barnes, deputy director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

The study was published in New England Journal of Medicine.

The MIND food regimen includes many elements of the Mediterranean food regimen, a food regimen that favors fish, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and olive oil. The MIND food regimen also includes a part of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) food regimen, which goals to enhance blood pressure and reduce the danger of heart attacks, strokes, and a few conditions that may result in dementia.

CNN reported concerns concerning the recent study.

“My biggest concern with this study from the beginning was that three years might be too short a time to have an impact on a disease course that develops over many decades,” said Dr. Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition on the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and professor of drugs at Harvard Medical School.

Willett referred to a older clinical study The study found that eating more beta-carotenoids – the antioxidants present in red, yellow, orange and dark green fruit and veggies – provided cognitive advantages – but only after years of following the food regimen.

Barnes said previous research has shown that following the MIND food regimen and the Mediterranean food regimen provides significant protection against cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease, but those studies lasted significantly longer than the brand new three-year study.