A higher MIND diet score is associated with greater cognitive function and slower cognitive decline independently of Alzheimer disease (AD) pathology and other age-related brain pathologies, according to study results published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The MIND diet, which is a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet, is rich in nutrients such as folate, vitamin E, lutein-zeaxanthin, and flavonoids, which have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and procognition properties. It’s associated with slower cognitive decline and a lower risk of developing AD dementia in older adults. The objective of the current study was to assess whether this diet is associated with cognition independent of brain pathologies in older adults.

The study evaluated the association of the MIND diet score, brain pathologies, and cognitive functioning among older adults from the Rush Memory and Aging Project.


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Data were included from 569 deceased individuals (70% women), who had an average age of 91 years at death and a mean education level of about 15 years. Their average MIND diet score was 7.35 (Standard Deviation (SD) 1.42) (men, 7.20; women, 7.41; P =.11). Two-thirds of the group had a postmortem diagnosis of AD, but only one-third were diagnosed with clinical AD dementia proximate to death, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA)-Reagan criteria.

One SD increase in MIND diet score was associated with 0.119 units higher in cognitive score (β =0.119, SE =0.040, P =.003). The MIND diet score remained independently associated with cognition and estimates did not change substantially (β =0.111, SE =0.037, P =.003) when MIND diet and AD pathology were included in the same model.

The strength or significance of the association between MIND diet with cognition and its independence to AD pathology was not changed after exclusion of 178 participants with mild cognitive impairment at baseline (β =0.121, SE =0.042, P =.005).

The MIND diet also was associated with better cognitive function proximate to death among participants (n =374) who had significant brain pathology and met the NIA-Reagan consensus criteria for the postmortem AD diagnosis (β =0.114, SE =0.050, P =.023).

Analysis showed that 1 SD increase in MIND diet score was associated with slower cognitive decline by 0.012 units per year (β =0.012, SE =0.005, P =.022).

The researchers noted that reliance on a self-reported diet was a limitation of their study. Also, the population included primarily White patients who agreed to annual evaluations and postmortem organ donation.

“While we showed that the association between the MIND diet and cognition was independent of brain pathology, there was no evidence that the MIND diet score modified the associations of brain pathologies with cognition,” the researchers stated. “Together, these findings suggest that the mechanism by which the MIND diet supports cognitive resilience is not related to the levels of pathology in the brain, and other neurobiological mechanisms remain to be identified.”

Disclosure: Some of the study authors declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.

Reference

Dhana K, James BD, Agarwal P, et al. MIND diet, common brain pathologies, and cognition in community-dwelling older adults. J Alzheimers Dis. Published online September 14, 2021. doi: 10.3233/JAD-210107