What are the connections between what we eat and Alzheimer’s disease, and what changes can we make to our diet to help prevent cognitive decline? These are some of the topics that will be discussed in The Kensington White Plains’ newest online event: The MIND diet with Chef Annie Fenn, MD.
We were delighted to learn that Dr. Fenn—a former ob-gyn physician now culinary advocate for brain health—will be joining us April 18th for an in-person cooking demo at our community!
But can changing what we eat really make a difference in preventing or treating Alzheimer’s disease? As part of this free, online event, we’ll discuss the growing evidence about the connection between nutrition and brain function as well as:
- Ten select food groups for a healthy brain.
- Six food groups that you should limit or avoid.
- Tips for swapping ingredients in your cooking that can improve thinking skills while reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
Dr. Fenn did a live cooking session of recipes from her cookbook, The Brain Health Kitchen: Preventing Alzheimer’s Through Food, Artisan Books, 2023.
In 2015, five years before she passed away, Dr. Martha Clare Morris and her colleagues at Rush University Medical Center and Harvard Chan School of Public Health developed the MIND diet. The MIND diet is an innovative combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. It is designed to prevent dementia and cognitive decline as one grows older.
Dementia happens to be the sixth leading cause of death in the US. Because so many of us will be directly or indirectly affected by these diseases, much interest and attention is being spent looking for new methods to stop cognitive decline.
The research team studied older adults selected from the Rush Memory and Aging Project for an entire decade. This investigation was conducted on people from over 40 senior public housing units and retirement communities in Chicago who were free of dementia when they enrolled.
For over nine years, more than 1,000 people filled out yearly dietary surveys and had their cognitive capacities assessed. A MIND diet score was created to recognize which foods and nutrients and how much of them could be beneficial for preventing dementia and cognitive decline.
The research determined that fifteen dietary components could be considered either “brain healthy” or unhealthy. Those with the highest MIND diet scores experienced a slower rate of cognitive deterioration than those with the lowest.
The MIND diet proved to be more effective than the Mediterranean or DASH diet regarding its effect on cognition.
The study aimed to evaluate if the MIND diet could stop or decelerate the development of dementia. All three diets advocate for more plant-based foods and restrict the consumption of animal products and high saturated fat consumption.
Mediterranean and DASH diets have been seen to have a preventive effect on cardiovascular issues, such as high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. A few researchers have also found that these two diets offer protection against dementia.
In a recent investigation, the effect of the MIND diet was compared with the original two (Mediterranean and DASH). People with high adherence to their DASH and Mediterranean diets experienced a decrease in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)—39 percent with the DASH diet and 54 percent with the Mediterranean diet. However, they saw little benefit from moderate adherence to either of the two different diets.
The MIND diet is additionally simpler to follow than, for instance, the Mediterranean diet, which requires regular consumption of fish and three to four servings every day of fruits and vegetables.
According to additional published studies and trials, switching to a MIND diet has more potential benefits.
- Higher MIND diet scores were shown to have better cognitive performance and a slower decline in cognitive skills for a group of adults over the age of 65.
- This same study included results from participants already diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other brain diseases.
- For participants who had a stroke in their medical history, adherence to the MIND diet showed a slower rate of cognitive decline over a period of six years.
- In Australia, a sampling of adults aged 60-64 was followed for a dozen years. Those in the group with the highest MIND diet scores had significantly lower odds (53%) of developing impairment than those with the lowest MIND scores.
- In another prospective cohort study, a larger sampling of participants (16,000, all women aged 70 and over) found that longer-term adherence to their MIND diet was moderately associated with better memory scores in later life.
Dr. Annie Fenn is the creator of The Brain Health Kitchen, the only cooking school dedicated entirely to supporting brain health and aiding people to prevent mental decline through diet and lifestyle.
After two decades as a board-certified obstetrician, she exchanged her stethoscope for an apron to follow her love for the culinary arts. Nevertheless, it was her mother’s diagnosis with dementia that helped Fenn find her purpose and her fresh vocation. Her new goal was not only to aid her mother but also to create a substantial and meaningful contribution to other people dealing with these issues.
Fenn resides in Jackson, Wyoming. You can find her on Instagram at @brainhealthkitchen.
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