The MIND Diet for Reducing Dementia Risk

Brent R. Stockwell, Ph.D.
3 min readMay 8, 2023

A new study shows that the MIND diet reduces the risk of dementia in middle age and older adults.

Dementia is a major concern for adults throughout the world. Preventing dementia is a key goal for patients, physicians, nutritionists, and pharmaceutical companies. A number of recent studies has begun exploring the potential of diets in achieving a reduction in dementia risk.

One such diet is the Mediterranean Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet. A new study evaluated the association of the MIND diet with dementia risk.

Couple cooking
Cooking a MIND healthy meal (Adobe Stock)

This new study included participants from the Whitehall II study (WII), the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), and the Framingham Heart Study Offspring cohort (FOS). These individuals were middle-aged and older adults without dementia at the beginning of the study. The researchers used food frequency questionnaires to measure the participants’ adherence to the MIND diet, with scores ranging from 0 to 15 (higher scores indicated better adherence).

Over 166,516 person-years, 775 participants developed dementia. The researchers found that a higher MIND diet score was associated with a lower risk of dementia. This association was consistent across subgroups defined by sex, age, smoking status, and body mass index. A meta-analysis of 11 cohort studies, including 224,049 participants and 5,279 dementia cases, supported this finding. The highest tertile of MIND diet scores was associated with a lower risk of dementia compared to the lowest tertile.

The MIND diet involves increased consumption of green leafy vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, and fish, for example.

MIND diet food in the shape of a brain
The MIND diet food (Adobe Stock)

Here is a MIND diet friendly recipe:

Easy Pan-Seared Lemon Garlic Fish with Mixed Greens Salad

Ingredients:

4 white fish fillets (such as cod, halibut, or tilapia, 4–6 ounces each)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pepper, to taste
4 cups mixed greens (e.g., spinach, arugula, and baby kale)
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette or your favorite salad dressing

Instructions:

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, minced garlic, and pepper. Set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Pat the fish fillets dry with paper towels and season them with pepper. Place the fish fillets in the skillet, cooking for 3–4 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through. Pour the lemon-garlic mixture over the cooked fish fillets in the skillet, and cook for an additional 1–2 minutes, spooning the sauce over the fillets. In a large bowl, toss the mixed greens, and halved cherry tomatoes with the balsamic vinaigrette or your preferred salad dressing. Serve the pan-seared lemon garlic fish alongside the mixed greens salad for a fresh, flavorful, and nutritious meal.

Fish recipe
Easy Pan-Seared Lemon Garlic Fish with Mixed Greens Salad

The study’s results suggest that adherence to the MIND diet is indeed associated with a lower risk of dementia in middle-aged and older adults. Here is the study:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37133875/

However, further research is needed to develop and refine the specific MIND diet for different populations, and whether this association is causal or correlative. In the meantime, embracing the MIND diet could be a delicious and healthy way to reduce the risk of dementia.

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Brent R. Stockwell, Ph.D.

Chair and Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University. Top Medium writer in Science, Creativity, Health, and Ideas