Nutritional science might be about the toughest subject to study in the world.
This is no small claim. Especially in an era where we build miles-long supercollider tracks, try to instantiate consciousness in computer systems, and figure out how to run the world’s economy in a user-friendly way accommodating eight billion selfish, autonomous agents.
But Dr. Martha Morris thinks figuring out optimal nutrition might be the toughest thing we’re attempting. And when you think about the challenges involved in human trials of rival diets, it’s hard not to see her way of thinking.
Humans are a long-lived species — among the longest. And even if we weren’t, we wouldn’t want to have to wait for the average length of one of our own lifetimes to see how an experimental cohort performs, living on an experimental diet. So we’re forced to operate on half-measures:
- Animal studies in related species – but are they related enough?
- Longitudinal human studies that last years – but can we wait that long for answers?
- Population studies that can give statistical averages – but what about my genetic peculiarities?
And then there’s the issue of commitment…. Even if we’re presented with a diet we believe is the right one, will we like it? Can we stick with it?
There are few motivators like Alzheimer’s avoidance.
Dr. Morris’ research work has centered around using nutrition to maintain brain health in old age. What food choices correlate with delays in cognitive decline? Can Alzheimer’s be prevented with a diet, or have its progress slowed? When is it too late to stop the down-slide — and is it ever too early to start building protection?
The answer to many of these questions is a one-two punch:
We don’t know yet, but…
We’ve got some very strong clues.
Many dietary choices have been shown to correlate with better-than-average cognitive outcomes. And in 2015, Dr. Morris and colleagues unveiled the “MIND” Diet — the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay — combining what she considers the best aspects of two brain-healthy diets into the ultimate (maybe) anti-Alzheimer’s nutritional prevention strategy.
In Episode #199, she tells us about the how, why, and what that goes into the MIND Diet, as well as the ongoing 600-person study (now in progress!) following MIND Diet practicioners as they adhere to the diet in advanced age.
Get ready for an interview that will have you seriously consider the long-term implications of your next trip to the grocery store. 😉
Diet for the MIND
by Dr. Martha Clare Morris
Combining science, lifestyle recommendations, and recipes — and of course, photos of recipes — this companion book to the MIND Diet provides a non-invasive, effective way to prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Episode introduction: The MIND Diet with Dr. Martha Morris.
This Week In Neuroscience.
5-Star review shout-outs.
Guest introduction: Dr. Martha Morris.
Interview begins; Dr. Morris talks about her research.
Building on the basics of a healthy diet and incorporating brain healthy nutrients into the diet.
Establishing a baseline; Diet and disease prevention.
Green, leafy vegetables and their importance for the brain.
When do the benefits of diet kick in?
Research participant demographics.
Vitamin B12 and protection against cognitive decline.
Primary biomarkers being looked at as data is being collected.
The importance of having diligent participants for this research.
Thoughts on seasonal variation within a diet.
Differences at the population level.
Five food groups in the MIND Diet that should be limited.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
What might we know about all of this about five or ten years from now?
Other research that Dr. Morris has in the works.
Barriers in the research process.
Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick: A Neural Perspective of Cheese Disgust.