Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by memory loss and gradual cognitive decline. In the U.S., around one in nine older adults are living with this condition, sometimes even without their knowledge. The disease has been the focus of research for years, with doctors trying to find out the proper medication and diet to treat the symptoms.

The MIND diet has now secured a popular spot in treating Alzheimer’s after being widely recommended by experts. The diet, which was engineered by combining the Mediterranean and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, can help alter the damage to brain cells, say researchers.

Alzheimer’s disease is linked to protein deposits called beta-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary in the brain. These are considered to spell great damage to the brain cells and cause cognitive impairment. But the magnitude of the brain’s susceptibility to the disease depends on the number of brain pathologies or cognitive resilience. Studies have shown the MIND diet can slow down cognitive decline in older adults, who have rather weaker brain pathology levels.

Recently a team from the Rush University in Chicago conducted a comparative study with people who followed the MIND diet, and those who stuck to the Mediterranean diet, CNN reported. The findings of the study suggested that people who embarked on either of the diets had an almost 40% lower possibility of having enough plaques and tangles in brain tissue to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

The study, published in Neurology, monitored the diets of 581 elderly people with an average age of 84. The research was conducted on people who had donated their bodies to Rush University as part of their Memory and Aging Project.

Each year during the span of the study, the elderly participants were given a questionnaire asking them how much brain-healthy food they ate until they died. And after they passed, researchers looked into their brains to measure the number of amyloid plaques or tau tangles that built up. Unsurprisingly, they found people who incorporated more leafy greens into their diets had much less plaque build-up.

“People who scored highest for adhering to the Mediterranean diet had average plaque and tangle amounts in their brains similar to being 18 years younger than people who scored lowest," CNN reported, quoting a statement on the study. “Researchers also found people who scored highest for adhering to the MIND diet had average plaque and tangle amounts similar to being 12 years younger than those who scored lowest.”

The study also noted that adding just one food option from either diet--such as eating the targeted amounts of veggies or fruits--had a bearing on cutting down amyloid buildup in the brain to the point the brain looks four years younger.

“Doing a simple dietary modification, such as adding more greens, berries, whole grains, olive oil, and fish, can actually delay your onset of Alzheimer’s disease or reduce your risk of dementia when you’re growing old,” the study author Puja Agarwal, told CNN. Agarwal emphasized on eating more berries on top of leafy greens to maximize the benefits.

The 10 foods that the combined diet encourages are as follows:

  • Green veggies
  • All other veggies
  • Nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Whole grains
  • Fish
  • Beans
  • Poultry
  • Wine