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Dear Dietitian – What is the MIND diet and does it lower the risk for dementia?

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PICT Leanne McCrate Dear Dietitian
Leanne McCrate, RDN, LD, CNSC

Dear Dietitian,

We often hear about diet and heart disease or weight loss.  I recently read about a diet that might prevent dementia.  Have you heard of this?

Mr. Potzman

Dear Mr. Potzman,

There has been recent research on diet and dementia. The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet combines the Mediterranean and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets and focuses on foods that have been found to have a protective effect on the brain. The diet aims to slow the loss of brain function, thereby delaying or possibly preventing dementia.

In a joint effort, Harvard and Rush Universities studied 960 adults aged 65 to 84 years. One group followed the MIND diet with a 250-calorie reduction per day. The other group ate their usual diet but included the same calorie reduction. The study found that the MIND diet lowered the risk of dementia by as much as 53 percent in those who followed the diet strictly and by about 35 percent in those who followed it moderately well.

The MIND diet focuses on plant foods and recommends the following:

  • Green, leafy vegetables, like spinach and Romaine lettuce: at least six servings per week
  • Other vegetables: at least one per day
  • Beans: at least three servings per week
  • Nuts: at least five servings per week. One serving is ¼ cup.
  • Berries: two or more servings per week. There was no overall benefit found in other fruits. However, other fruits are a good source of fiber and vitamins.
  • Whole grains: three or more servings a day. Think fiber.
  • Fish: once a week
  • Poultry: twice a week
  • Olive oil: Use as your primary cooking oil.
  • Wine: one glass of red wine per day. One serving is 4 fluid ounces. Experts agree that if you do not drink, don’t start.

The diet limits red meat, butter, cheese, sweets, and fried foods. 

As with any study, this one has its limitations. Keep in mind that this area of research is very new. More studies are needed to see if the same results can be duplicated. Also, the study is observational, so a cause-and-effect relationship cannot be established. Finally, the research was performed on an elderly Caucasian population, so other age groups or cultures cannot assume the same results.

Until next time, be healthy!

Dear Dietitian


  1. Morris, Martha Clare, Christy C. Tangney, Yamin Wang, Frank M. Sacks, Lisa L. Barnes, David A. Bennett, and Neelum T. Aggarwal. 2015. “MIND Diet Slows Cognitive Decline with Aging.” Alzheimer’s & Dementia 11 (9) (September): 1015–1022. doi:10.1016/ j.jalz.2015.04.011. 
Leanne McCrate, RDN, LD, CNSC, is an award-winning dietitian based in Missouri. Her mission is to educate the public on sound, evidence-based nutrition. Do you have a nutrition question?  Email her at Dear Dietitian does not endorse any products, health programs, or diet plans.