Take Care of Your MIND: Reviewing the MIND Diet for Healthy Brain Aging

Headshot of Nathaniel Chin, MD, in his office
Nathaniel Chin, MD

To mark National Mediterranean Diet Month, Dr. Nathaniel Chin discusses a recent National Institute on Aging-funded study that suggests the MIND and Mediterranean diets — both rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, olive oil, beans and fish — are associated with fewer signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the brains of older adults. In this special episode of Dementia Matters, Chin also revisits his interview with the creator of the MIND diet, Dr. Martha Clare Morris, shares recommendations for ten things to incorporate into your diet and five things to limit, and touches on the benefits of intermittent fasting.

Show Notes

This episode was uploaded as an exclusive video episode on the Wisconsin ADRC YouTube page on May 16, 2023. Watch the recording.

Learn more about National Mediterranean Diet Month on our website.

Read the National Institute on Aging’s press release, “MIND and Mediterranean diets linked to fewer signs of Alzheimer’s brain pathology,” published May 4, 2023.

Listen to Dr. Martha Clare Morris’s episode of Dementia Matters, “MIND Diet for Healthy Brain Aging,” on our website.

Listen to Dr. Remi Daviet’s episode of Dementia Matters, “Alcohol And The Brain: One Drink A Day Associated With Brain Shrinkage,” on our website.

Listen to Dr. Mark Mattson’s episode of Dementia Matters, “Intermittent Fasting And Its Effects On The Brain,” on our website.

Connect with us

Find transcripts and more at our website.

Email Dementia Matters: dementiamatters@medicine.wisc.edu

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Subscribe to the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center’s e-newsletter.


Intro: I'm Dr. Nathaniel Chin, and you're listening to Dementia Matters, a podcast about Alzheimer's disease. Dementia Matters is a production of the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. Our goal is to educate listeners on the latest news in Alzheimer's disease research and caregiver strategies. Thanks for joining us. 

Dr. Nathaniel Chin: Welcome back to Dementia Matters. This is a special episode because May is National Mediterranean Diet Month, an ideal time for us to revisit the MIND diet for healthy brain aging. 

The MIND diet stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This MIND diet was created at Rush University Medical Center and is a result of a four and a half year study through the National Institute of Aging that found people who ate more MIND diet foods had less risk of Alzheimer's disease. People who followed the diet moderately had a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease by 35 percent and those who followed it more closely had a reduced risk by 53 percent. These are pretty compelling numbers.

As of May 4 of 2023, the NIA released another press release showing that another NIA-funded study published in Neurology suggests that perhaps these diets protect from the actual damage caused by Alzheimer's. They found that people who followed the MIND diet and the Mediterranean diet had fewer signs of Alzheimer's disease changes in the brains of those participants. For those that are interested in understanding more about the MIND diet, I would encourage you to go way back to 2017, October 24, where I interviewed Dr. Martha Claire Morris, the creator of the MIND diet.

Dr. Martha Clara Morris Sound Bite: The Mediterranean diet and the DASH diets are both very well-rounded diets that have been vigorously tested and shown to be important for keeping one healthy, especially from cardiovascular conditions. We've modified the basic components of the Mediterranean and the DASH diet to incorporate the nutrients that we knew were important for the brain. 

Chin: This episode will be in the show notes as well, as will the NIA press release that I've just mentioned. Now the MIND diet really is a composite or a combination of ten things to incorporate in your diet as well as five things to limit or reduce. The ten things are green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine. Now there is some compelling evidence that perhaps any amount of alcohol is not good for us. I feel confident in saying I would not encourage someone to start drinking simply for their brain health. If you are interested in understanding more of some of this evidence, I would encourage you to look at the podcast on Thursday June 2, of 2022 where I interviewed Dr. Remi Daviet, where he talks about alcohol and the brain, where one drink a day may be associated with brain shrinkage.

Dr. Remi Daviet Sound Bite: Even though we don't really have a causal effect identified, we have strong suspicion – let's put it like that – you will have to drink two small glasses every day of the week to reach the level where we find that there is some negative association. However, when you go above this, so you start drinking three units or four units – four small glasses – every day, because the effect is exponential, that's where we start seeing really strong magnitude in terms of the association. That's when I would be more worried.

Chin: I would also like to mention the five things that the MIND diet asks us to limit: red meat, butter and margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, fried or fast food. Now as those who have listened to my podcast know, I understand these recommendations. I, myself, am not limiting my cheese. It's just a personal decision that I'm willing to make. I do however think that things like sweets, fried food and fast food are something that I can consciously choose not to eat or limit. Everyone's going to be different but these are pretty good recommendations. 

I also want to end by saying it isn't just the foods that you eat, but there's growing evidence that the timing of when you eat or when you aren't eating matters as well. For those of you that have heard of intermittent fasting or are interested in it, I would direct you to the podcast that I did with Dr. Mark Matson on intermittent fasting and its effects on the brain. This is October 8 of 2020. 

Dr. Mark Mattson Sound Bite: Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern in which the individual frequently goes for extended periods of a time with no energy intake, periods of time that are sufficient to deplete liver energy stores which is glucose and then switch to using fats and the ketones derived from the fats in your fat cells. The typical American eating pattern is three meals a day plus an evening snack in many cases. With that eating pattern, there's not any time interval between meals sufficient to cause this metabolic switch from glucose to fats and ketones.

Chin: Again, all of these episodes and references are going to be in the show notes but I do encourage you to think about the foods you eat, how much you eat and when you eat. These are very important factors to our overall health but certainly also our quality of life. I hope you have a great May, and I hope you further your understanding of the MIND diet and the things that you take in. Thank you.

Outro: Thank you for listening to Dementia Matters. Follow us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen or tell your smart speaker to play the Dementia Matters podcast. Please rate us on your favorite podcast app -- it helps other people find our show and lets us know how we are doing. Dementia Matters is brought to you by the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the University of Wisconsin--Madison. It receives funding from private, university, state, and national sources, including a grant from the National Institutes of Health for Alzheimer's Disease Centers. This episode of Dementia Matters was produced by Amy Lambright Murphy and Caoilfhinn Rauwerdink. Our musical jingle is "Cases to Rest" by Blue Dot Sessions. To learn more about the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center and Dementia Matters, check out our website at adrc.wisc.edu, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. If you have any questions or comments, email us at dementiamatters@medicine.wisc.edu. Thanks for listening.