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Eating a healthier diet may slow your brain’s aging process by more than seven years while reducing your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study.

The MIND diet, developed by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, combines elements from the traditional Mediterranean diet with a more clinical approach known as DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). More specifically, the study recommends:

  • at least three servings of whole grains daily
  • a green leafy vegetable as well as one other vegetable daily
  • a glass of wine daily
  • a regular snack of nuts
  • a serving of beans three or four days a week
  • a serving of poultry at least twice a week
  • berries at least twice a week
  • fish at least once a week
  • less than a tablespoon of butter daily
  • less than a serving a week of sweets and pastries, whole-fat cheese, and fried or fast food

“The MIND diet modifies the Mediterranean and DASH diets to highlight the foods and nutrients shown through the scientific literature to be associated with dementia prevention,” nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris, ScD, said in a statement released by the university.

Working with 960 adults with an average age of 81, Morris and her team compared the cognitive performance of those who followed the MIND diet with a control group over a four-and-a-half-year period. The brains of the MIND dieters were found to be 7.5 years younger than the control group, based on a variety of cognitive tests.

“Everyone experiences decline with aging; and Alzheimer’s disease is now the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S., which accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Therefore, prevention of cognitive decline, the defining feature of dementia, is now more important than ever,” Morris explained. “Delaying dementia’s onset by just five years can reduce the cost and prevalence by nearly half.”

For more on diet and brain health, see “Healthy Brain Food” in our September 2012 issue.

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