News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

How The MIND Diet Feeds The Brain And Helps Prevent Alzheimer's


Research has found a combination of the DASH and Mediterranean diets can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and improve brain health.

The DASH Diet was for individuals that have elevated blood pressure. But Dr. Claudia Padilla, a behavioral neurologist with Baylor AT&T Memory Center said there’s always been discussion in the neurologic literature about the Mediterranean diet.

“And that goes back to research that’s done in the European literature that shows individuals in Europe that do follow that Mediterranean diet there is less incidence and prevalence of developing dementias or Alzheimer’s disease.”

However, Padilla notes nutrition is just one step in any effort to prevent cognitive change. She also recommends physical fitness, stimulating your brain with activities you enjoy and staying socially active and engaged.

Interview Highlights

About the MIND Diet: This was a diet that was studied out of Rusk University at their aging and memory center in 2015. What they looked at was the population of patients that followed a plant-based diet with less processed foods and more fresh food like fruits and vegetables, lean proteins like chicken and fish, and using olive oil to cook with. So those are some of the key ingredients. They found individuals that followed this diet strictly had about a 53-percent reduction in developing Alzheimer’s disease or cognitive changes. Patients that followed it moderately had a decline of 33 percent.

How the diet produces results: There’s certain properties in the olive oil that crosses the blood brain barrier that’s healthier for the brain. Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries – that type of food group or fruit are very important for the brain because of its antioxidant properties. And then, the breakdown of different things that, in turn, all of those processes help the brain function better. So, there’s specific nutrients and ingredients in the food groups that they think contributes – as well as what they noticed in the structures of the brains of these individuals. They actually were healthier.

Would a balanced diet achieve the same thing? I think something more specific. A lot of times we find people aren’t aware of this diet or don’t know that maybe instead of using a different type of oil than they’ve been using all their life, like Crisco or whatever it is, just making that one switch to, say, olive oil can make a difference.

Can you eat your way to brain health: No, but it’s a part of staying brain healthy. I think the other things that we have to think about is: Are you staying mentally active or engaged? Doing something you enjoy to stimulate your brain – a jigsaw puzzle, a crossword puzzle, listening to music, whatever that may be. Also, physical fitness is important to staying brain healthy, as well as staying socially involved and engaged. It may not prevent cognitive decline 100 percent, but all those things contribute to helping prevent it.  


Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.