Beware of the new Alzheimer’s diet

A new day, a new diet. And this time it’s for Alzheimer’s disease… Developed by researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, the latest new diet claims to significantly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, even for those who do not follow it to the letter. But as usual, the devil is in the details…

The diet–called the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet–combines aspects of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet (an eating plan based on National Institutes of Health studies) and the Mediterranean diet. I’m no fan of the DASH diet, as it’s based on the NIH’s archaic, out-of-touch dietary recommendations. But I am obviously big on all things Mediterranean. So I figured I’d hear them out.

According to its creators, the MIND diet is easier to follow than both the Mediterranean and DASH diets. It consists of 15 dietary components: 10 “brain-healthy food groups” and five unhealthy food groups. Um, am I missing something? How is that easy? It sounds more like an SAT math question.

Unlike the DASH and Mediterranean diets–in which high consumption of all fruits is recommended–the MIND diet focuses specifically on berries (specifically blueberries and strawberries, which are hailed for their brain benefits). I’m down with this.

The recommended, brain-healthy foods in this diet are green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine. I’m generally down with this, too. (Just substitute macadamia nut oil for olive. And easy on the beans and wine.)

Pastries, sweets, and fried/fast food must be limited, according to this diet. Obviously, I’m in full agreement.

But here’s what I’m NOT down with: butter, cheese and red meat are also specified to be severely limited on the MIND diet. Here we go again!

As I’ve said before, saturated fat is not the enemy, as long as it’s not paired with carbs and sugar. A grass-fed steak with a side of veggies is A-OK; a roast beef sandwich on white is not.

For their study, the researchers analyzed the food intake of 923 Chicago residents between the ages of 58 and 98 who were part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project. They gathered dietary info from questionnaires completed between 2004 and 2013. The researchers scored participants on how closely their diet matched either the MIND diet, Mediterranean diet or DASH diet. The researchers assessed Alzheimer’s incidence over an average follow-up period of 4.5 years.

Those researchers found that closely following all three diets lowered Alzheimer’s risk. Participants who followed the Mediterranean diet showed a 54 percent lower risk, those who followed the MIND diet were at 53 percent lower risk, while folks on the DASH diet had a 39 percent reduced risk for Alzheimer’s. But the team also found that participants who adhered only moderately to the Mediterranean or DASH diets showed no reduction in Alzheimer’s risk, while moderate adherence to the MIND diet still put participants at 35 percent lower risk of developing the disease.

This definitely is not bad news, per se. But I’m not comfortable recommending something based on how it’ll help if you just do it some of the time. Plus, why not just recommend the Mediterranean diet?

My diet recommendation is still full, not partial, adherence to the Hamptons Diet (which incorporates the best tenets of the Mediterranean diet). It’s not hard to stick to, because the foods–from a gooey cheese omelet to a juicy cheeseburger with avocado on a bed of lettuce–are so satisfying. It’s anything but a flash-in-the-pan eating plan, and it’s based on real science, not jargon from faux “experts.” Save your four-letter fad acronyms–and meet me in the Hamptons.


Whiteman, Honor. “New ‘MIND’ diet linked to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 18 Mar. 2015. Web.17 Jun. 2015.