PhotoWith the huge Baby Boom population getting older, its members are naturally drawn to products that promote youth and vitality and slow physical and cognitive decline.

As such, the MIND diet is growing in popularity with this group. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center have found that sticking closely to the food included on the MIND diet may slow natural cognitive decline among aging adults, even when the person is not at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Previously, the research team established that the MIND diet may reduce a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

This new research shows that older adults who followed the MIND diet faithfully showed an equivalent of being 7.5 years younger cognitively than those who followed the diet least.

The MIND diet

So, what's included in the MIND diet? The ingredients should be familiar since it is a rough combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. There are ten things you eat and five things you avoid.

The things you eat include at least three servings of whole grains, a green leafy vegetable, and one other vegetable every day -- along with a glass of wine. Followers of the diet also snack most days on nuts, have beans every other day or so, eat poultry and berries at least twice a week, and fish at least once a week.

As for the things to avoid, limit consumption of butter, sweets, pastries, whole fat cheese, and fried or fast food. Followers of the diet should have less than a serving a week for any of these products.

Berries – the only fruit specifically to be included in the MIND diet – are especially important.

"Blueberries are one of the more potent foods in terms of protecting the brain," said Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist and member of the research team. “Strawberries also have performed well in past studies of the effect of food on cognitive function.”

Scientifically proven

To reach its conclusions, the research team assembled 960 older adults who were completely free of dementia and evaluated their cognitive change over nearly five years. The participants averaged 81.4 years in age.

During the study, the participants were closely followed, receiving yearly standardized testing for cognitive ability in five areas - episodic memory, working memory, semantic memory, visuospatial ability, and perceptual speed.

The researchers were able to closely follow their subjects' diet, comparing participants' reported adherence to the MIND diet with changes in their cognitive abilities as measured by the tests.

"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." Morris said. "There is still a great deal of study we need to do in this area, and I expect that we'll make further modifications as the science on diet and the brain advances."

Morris says the MIND diet can pay huge dividends for Boomers, since she says it can not only reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease but slow natural cognitive decline as well. Delaying dementia's onset by just five years, she says, can reduce the cost and prevalence by nearly half.

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