shoppingIf life is a highway, then food is the fuel.

Eating right can not only take you further down that long one-way road, but it may help you better remember the milestones along the way, according to new research.

“DIET MAY HELP PREVENT ALZHEIMER’S,” declares a headline at the website for Rush University Medical Center, which announced that combining elements from the popular Mediterranean and DASH diets could cut the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by more than half.

Dubbed the MIND diet, the regimen was developed over a decade by Martha Clare Morris, a Rush nutritional epidemiologist and her colleagues. By tracking nearly 1,000 people over several years, they found that a diet that includes healthy portions of berries, leafy greens, and fish lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 53 percent for those who follow it strictly.

Even those who only stick to the diet part of the time can lower their Alzheimer’s risk by more than a third. And on top of that, the MIND diet still provides the cardiovascular benefits — lowering blood pressure and the chances for heart attack or stroke — that popularized the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets.

“This is exciting news,” said Dr. Kate Zhong, senior director of clinical research for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. “The claims need more study, but they follow what we have long advocated as one of our Six Pillars of Brain Health, a diet rich in fish, fruit and whole grains and light on processed foods.”

All of the researchers noted that a complex and not fully understood set of factors involving genetics, environment, and lifestyle likely contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s. Still, the MIND diet is seen as a step forward in memory loss prevention.

“This is a very good study conducted by a very good research team,” Dr. Zhong told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The MIND diet gets its name from the acronym Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The research appears in the Alzheimer’s & Dementia, the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

What to eat, what to skip

Creators of the MIND diet suggest 10 brain-healthy foods and five to cut back on.

Help yourself:

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Other vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Berries
  • Beans
  • Whole grains
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Olive oil
  • Wine

Try to limit:

  • Red meats
  • Butter and stick margarine
  • Cheese
  • Pastries and sweets
  • Fried or fast food