The MIND Diet Slows Aging and Reduces Dementia Risk

Shanthi Appelo
Shanthi Appelo

| 3 min read

by Shanthi Appelö, registered dietitian and health and wellness spokesperson at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and more than 6 million Americans are living with either dementia or Alzheimer’s. These rates could more than double by 2060 barring medical advancement, according to a 2021 study in Alzheimer's & Dementia Journal.
Diet has become a focus of dementia research given the multiple effects food has on a person’s overall health and wellness. People who eat healthier diets are less likely to develop dementia, but the reasons for this are multifold and more research is needed to understand the link.
Alongside treating the causes of dementia, adopting the MIND diet has been identified as an effective approach. “MIND” stands for Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. Properties of this diet may delay degenerative disease, dementia symptoms and signs of aging, although all the mechanisms are not all fully understood yet, according to a new 2024 study. Greater adherence to the MIND diet is associated with lower rates of dementia, according to the Harvard Chan School of Public Health.

What is the MIND diet and how can it affect dementia?

Combining the strategies of the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, the MIND diet revolves around healthy combinations of foods that may help reduce inflammation, hypertension and high blood pressure, and protect against cardiovascular and neurological diseases and signs of aging, according to Harvard Medical School.

How the MIND diet supports brain health

The MIND diet is used to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and hypertension, which have been shown to add to the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s. Lower blood pressure has also been shown to slow cognitive decline and signs of aging. Food components of the MIND diet such as Omega-3 fatty acids, certain vitamins and flavonoids are associated with reduced levels of oxidative stress and inflammation which can harm brain health.

How the MIND diet lowers inflammation

The MIND diet promotes a long list of anti-inflammatory foods, while it discourages foods known to exacerbate inflammation, or those that promote inflammation such as white breads and pastas, fried foods and ultra-processed meats. Staying away from processed foods and added sugars helps to reduce inflammation and stress. Inflammation has been shown to be a major marker or risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s.

How the MIND diet affects aging

The MIND diet contains foods known to be neuroprotective, or those that aid brain functions and cognition. Adherence to the diet has been associated with lower rates of cognitive decline and signs of aging. Heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory foods also help to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and neurological conditions.

What foods are included and avoided while on the MIND diet?

For a full article on what foods to include and avoid in the MIND diet, visit A Healthier Michigan’s MIND Diet guide. The MIND diet is high in:
  • Beans
  • Berries and nuts
  • Poultry and fish
  • Whole grains
  • Leafy greens
  • Olive oil
  • Other non-green vegetables

The MIND diet calls for limiting or avoiding:

  • Butter and stick margarine
  • Cheese
  • Fried foods, ultra-processed foods and fast food
  • Red and processed meats 
  • Sweets and pastries
  • Added sugars

Who should try the MIND diet for dementia?

For those at risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer's, it is a good idea to review their overall eating habits. Diet changes should always be discussed with care providers, but for patients with hypertension, high-blood pressure, signs of aging or fears of cognitive decline, the MIND diet is a healthy diet option. It is especially helpful for adults over the age of 65. Even if not fully adhered to, it can have positive effects; the more the diet is followed, the lower the correlated risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
by Shanthi Appelö, registered dietitian and health and wellness spokesperson at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan 

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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