Dietary habits to enhance cognition and prevent dementia

Monday, April 20, 2020

Can eating a specific food or following a particular diet help prevent or delay dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease?

Many studies suggest that what we eat affects the aging brain’s ability to think and remember. These findings have led to research on general eating patterns and whether they might make a difference.

Current evidence suggests that heart-healthy eating may also help protect the brain. Heart-healthy eating includes limiting the intake of sugar and saturated fats and making sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

No one diet is best. Two diets that have been studied and may be beneficial are the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and the Mediterranean diet.

The DASH diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits and fat-free or low-fat dairy products; includes whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, nuts and vegetable oils; and limits sodium, sweets, sugary beverages and red meats. A Mediterranean diet includes relatively little red meat and emphasizes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and shellfish, nuts, olive oil and other healthy fats.

One diet that shows some promising evidence is the Mediterranean diet.

A variation called the MIND (Mediterranean–DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet incorporates the DASH diet, which has been shown to lower high blood pressure, a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. The MIND diet focuses on plant-based foods linked to dementia prevention. It encourages eating from 10 healthy food groups and limits foods from five unhealthy food groups.

This includes: leafy green vegetables-at least six servings/week; other vegetables-at least one serving/day; berries-at least two servings/week; whole grains-at least three servings/day; fish-one serving/week; poultry-two servings/week; beans-three servings/week; nuts-five servings/week; wine-one glass/day* (be careful about how much alcohol you drink, as how the body handles alcohol can change with age); olive oil; and limited servings of red meat, sweets, cheese, butter/margarine and fast/fried food.

Some, but not all, studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk for dementia.

These studies compared cognitively normal people who ate a Mediterranean diet with those who ate a western-style diet, which contains more red meat, saturated fats and sugar. This information can be found from the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institute on Aging.

Visit our homepage at or contact the local Purdue Extension office by calling 653-8411 for more information regarding this week’s column topic or to RSVP for upcoming events. It is always best to call first to assure items are ready when you arrive and to RSVP for programs.

While many publications are free, some do have a fee. Purdue University is an equal access/equal opportunity institution. All times listed are Eastern Time.

Upcoming Events

April 21 – Online Marketing Strategies with Low Budgets – Saving Time Using Social Strategies, 1 p.m., register at

April 23 – Dietary Habits to Enhance Cognition and Prevent Dementia, 10 a.m., view live on the Purdue Extension-Putnam County Facebook page

April 23 – Gardening Tips for Everyone – Tips for Spring Crops, 1 p.m., register at

April 30 – Gardening Tips for Everyone – The 4-1-1 on Warm Season Crops, 1 p.m., register at

April 30 – Food Budgeting and Meal Planning – 2 p.m., view live at

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: