The study does not prove that eating an anti-inflammatory diet prevents brain aging and dementia, only that there’s a link between them.
Longer follow-up is needed to draw any firm conclusions on how inflammatory diet score affects brain health, Scarmeas cautioned.
The findings were published Nov. 10 in the journal Neurology.
Dr. Thomas Holland, a physician-scientist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, reviewed the findings.
“This study is lending further weight to the mechanism inflammation — specifically neuro-inflammation — that much of us understand as being one of the main players in causing cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s dementia,” he said.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.
For brain health, Holland recommends the MIND diet, the Mediterranean diet or the DASH diet. All three center on lean meats, fish, whole grains, fresh produce and olive oil. The MIND (or Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet combines elements from the Mediterranean and DASH diets and was specifically designed to help combat dementia.
So what should you eat to help boost brain health? Holland offered his suggestions.
“Berries, dark leafy greens, nuts, whole wheat, garlic, onions, peppers, tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, non-fried dark fish, and poultry,” he said.
These foods may decrease the strength and/or duration of the inflammatory process in your body and brain, Holland said. Some act as antioxidants, which sop up damaging free radicals and lower inflammation.
“Avoiding a Western-type diet pattern is also important, including reduced intake of whole-fat dairy, fried or fast foods, pastries and red meat,” he said.
Holland noted that pro-inflammatory foods can lead to uncontrolled inflammation and damage.
“If that damage occurs in the brain, the potential to develop dementia exists,” he said.
Learn what’s new in dementia prevention at the Alzheimer’s Association.
SOURCES: Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, associate professor, neurology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece; Thomas Holland, MD, MS, physician-scientist, Rush University, Chicago; Neurology, Nov. 10, 2021