The most obvious and promising benefit of the MIND diet is the possibility of significantly reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
To help establish a relationship between the MIND diet and this lower risk, the 2015 study conducted at Rush University in Chicago — which has been nicknamed “The MIND Diet Study” — evaluated the incidences of Alzheimer’s disease among 923 participants who were already closely following the MIND, DASH, and Mediterranean diets (based on their questionnaire responses) over a five-year period.
The study found that the MIND diet lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 53 percent.
Another exciting revelation is that it’s possible you don’t have to follow the diet strictly to enjoy its brain-boosting benefits. Even those who moderately follow the diet may have a 35 percent reduced risk for the disease, the authors noted. Still, following it closely has an upside: It’s comparable to being 7.5 years younger cognitively than people who don’t follow the diet diligently, according to a 2015 study. (7)
In addition to reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the MIND diet may also reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease. A 2018 study found this way of eating cut the risk and delayed the progression of the disease among older people. (8)
A 2022 study looked at diet data of more than 8,000 people covering over 20 years and also found an association between high adherence to the MIND diet and a decreased risk of dementia. However, in some cases, the association weakened in the later years of the study.
The researchers concluded that this may be in part due to reverse causality, meaning that the onset of dementia is actually causing poor adherence to the MIND diet rather than close adherence to the diet preventing dementia. Dietary habits can deteriorate as dementia progresses, the researchers said, and they called for more studies to better understand the MIND diet’s effect on dementia risk.
That said, because this diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, there are many health benefits you may experience unrelated to dementia risk.
The DASH diet has been linked to reductions in hypertension, thereby diminishing the risk of stroke and heart attack. (9) The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has also endorsed the plan for heart health, as has U.S. News & World Report, which releases annual rankings on the best popular diets. (10,11)
Meanwhile, the Mediterranean diet is a popular plan touted by dietitians, and for good reason: A study published in 2015 linked the approach to improvements in blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease, and better insulin sensitivity. (12) That makes it a plus for anyone at risk of heart disease or managing prediabetes or diabetes.
The only known disadvantage of the MIND diet (if you even want to call it a disadvantage) is that it requires patience, effort, and careful meal planning to ensure you’re consuming the right amount of food servings according to the diet’s guidelines.
To stay committed to the goal, come up with an accountability system and plan out all your meals for the week — breakfast, lunch, and dinner. More labor-intensive meals can be partially prepared ahead of time: Precut and store vegetables in plastic bowls, cut up fruit for smoothies and place in individual freezer bags, and precook your rice and beans.