MIND diet may slow cognitive decline in stroke survivors

January 25, 2018, Rush University Medical Center
Micrograph showing cortical pseudolaminar necrosis, a finding seen in strokes on medical imaging and at autopsy. H&E-LFB stain. Credit: Nephron/Wikipedia

A diet created by researchers at Rush University Medical Center may help substantially slow cognitive decline in stroke survivors, according to preliminary research presented on Jan. 25, at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2018 in Los Angeles. The finding are significant because stroke survivors are twice as likely to develop dementia compared to the general population.

The diet, known as the MIND diet, is short for Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. Both have been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension, heart attack and stroke.

"The foods that promote , including vegetables, berries, fish and olive oil, are included in the MIND diet," said Dr. Laurel J. Cherian, a vascular neurologist and assistant professor in Rush's Department of Neurological Sciences. "We found that it has the potential to help slow cognitive decline in ."

Cherian is the lead author of the study, which was funded by the National Institute of Aging (grant numbers R01AG054476 and R01AG17917).

Study assessed survivors' cognitive function and monitored their diets

Study co-author Martha Clare Morris, ScD, a Rush nutritional epidemiologist, and her colleagues developed the MIND diet based on information from years of research about what foods and nutrients have good, and bad, effects on the functioning of the brain. The diet has been associated with reduced Alzheimer's risk in seniors who adhered to its recommendations. Even people who moderately adhered had reduced risk of AD and cognitive decline.

The MIND diet has 15 dietary components, including 10 "brain-healthy food groups" and five unhealthy groups—red meat, butter, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast food.

To adhere to and benefit from the MIND diet, a person would need to eat at least three servings of whole grains, a green leafy vegetable and one other vegetable every day—along with a glass of wine—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. The diet also specifies limiting intake of the designated unhealthy foods, limiting butter to less than 1 1/2 teaspoons a day and eating less than 5 servings a week of sweets and pastries, and less than one serving per week of whole fat cheese, and fried or fast food.

"I was really intrigued by the results of a previous MIND study, which showed that the people who were most highly adherent to the MIND diet cognitively functioned as if they were 7.5 years younger than the least adherent group," Cherian said. "It made me wonder if those findings would hold true for stroke survivors, who are twice as likely to develop dementia compared to the ."

From 2004 to 2017, Cherian and colleagues studied 106 participants of the Rush Memory and Aging Project who had a history of stroke for cognitive decline, including decline in one's ability to think, reason and remember. They assessed people in the study every year until their deaths or the study's conclusion, for an average of 5.9 years, and monitored patients' eating habits using food journals.

The researchers grouped participants into those who were highly adherent to the MIND diet, moderately adherent and least adherent. They also looked at additional factors that are known to affect cognitive performance, including age, gender, education level, participation in cognitively stimulating activities, physical activity, smoking and genetics.

The study participants whose diets scored highest on the MIND diet score had substantially slower rate of cognitive decline than those who scored lowest. The estimated effect of the diet remained strong even after taking into account participants' level of education and participation in cognitive and physical activities. In contrast to the results of slower decline with higher MIND diet score, stroke survivors who scored high on the Mediterranean and DASH diets, did not have significant slowing in their cognitive abilities.

"The Mediterranean and DASH diets have been shown to be protective against coronary artery disease and stroke, but it seems the nutrients emphasized in the MIND diet may be better suited to overall brain health and preserving cognition," Cherian said.

According to Cherian, studies have found that folate, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, carotenoids and flavonoids are associated with slower rates of cognitive decline, while substances such as saturated and hydrogenated fats have been associated with dementia.

The right foods may be able to protect stroke survivors' cognition

"I like to think of the MIND diet as a way to supercharge the nutritional content of what we eat. The goal is to emphasize foods that will not only lower our risk of heart attacks and stroke, but make our brains as resilient as possible to cognitive decline," she said.

"Our study suggests that if we choose the right foods, we may be able to protect stroke survivors from ." Cherian cautions, however, that the study was observational, with a relatively small number of participants, and its findings cannot be interpreted in a cause-and-effect relationship.

"This is a preliminary study that will hopefully be confirmed by other studies, including a randomized intervention study instroke survivors," she says. "For now, I think there is enough information to encourage patients to view as an important tool to optimize their brain health."

Explore further: Mediterranean-style diets linked to better brain function in older adults

More information: Rush is currently seeking volunteers to participate in the study, which aims to show whether a specific diet can prevent cognitive decline and brain changes with age. Those interested in participating in the study can call (708) 660-MIND (6463) or email mindstudychicago@rush.edu.

Related Stories

Mediterranean-style diets linked to better brain function in older adults

July 25, 2017
Eating foods included in two healthy diets—the Mediterranean or the MIND diet—is linked to a lower risk for memory difficulties in older adults, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics ...

Eating away at cognitive decline: MIND diet may slow brain from aging by 7.5 years

August 4, 2015
While cognitive abilities naturally diminish as part of the normal aging process, it may be possible to take a bite out of this expected decline.

Diet proven to lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease also ranked No. 1 easiest to follow

January 5, 2016
A diet created, studied and reported on by researchers at Rush University Medical Center has been ranked the easiest diet to follow and the second best overall diet (tying in both categories) for 2016 by U.S. News & World ...

AAIC: Mediterranean diet may help preserve cognitive function

July 18, 2017
(HealthDay)—Eating right may help protect brain health in old age, a group of new studies show. The research was scheduled for presentation at the annual Alzheimer's Association International Conference, held from July ...

First study of diet's impact on dementia, Alzheimer's disease begins in January

January 4, 2017
The first study of its kind designed to test the effects of a diet on the decline of cognitive abilities among a large group of individuals 65 to 84 years who currently do not have cognitive impairment will begin in January.

New MIND diet may significantly protect against Alzheimer's disease

March 17, 2015
A new diet, appropriately known by the acronym MIND, could significantly lower a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, even if the diet is not meticulously followed, according to a paper published online for subscribers ...

Recommended for you

Gout could increase heart disease risk

August 17, 2018
Having a type of inflammatory arthritis called gout may worsen heart-related outcomes for people being treated for coronary artery disease, according to new research.

Stroke patients treated at a teaching hospital are less likely to be readmitted

August 17, 2018
Stroke patients appear to receive better care at teaching hospitals with less of a chance of landing back in a hospital during the early stages of recovery, according to new research from The University of Texas Health Science ...

Cardiovascular disease related to type 2 diabetes can be reduced significantly

August 16, 2018
Properly composed treatment and refraining from cigarette consumption can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease resulting from type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in the New England Journal of ...

Genomic autopsy can help solve unexplained cardiac death

August 15, 2018
Molecular autopsies can reveal genetic risk factors in young people who unexpectedly die, but proper interpretation of the results can be challenging, according to a recent study published in Circulation.

Neonatal pig hearts can heal from heart attack

August 15, 2018
While pigs still cannot fly, researchers have discovered that the hearts of newborn piglets do have one remarkable ability. They can almost completely heal themselves after experimental heart attacks.

Fifty percent of cardiovascular patients suffer from multiple diseases

August 15, 2018
New research led by The University of Western Australia has revealed that one in two patients admitted to hospital with a cardiovascular disease is suffering from multiple chronic medical conditions which required complex ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.