A Critical Review of the Study of Neuroprotective Diets to Reduce Cognitive Decline.Nutrients. 2021 Jun 30; 13(7)N
Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other dementias are now the seventh leading cause of death in the world and are projected to affect 115.4 million people by 2050. Delaying the onset of AD by just five years is estimated to reduce the cost and prevalence of the disease by half. There is no cure for AD nor any drug therapies to halt its progression once the disease begins. Lifestyle choices including diet are being seen as a viable complementary therapy to reduce cognitive decline, the hallmark of AD. Mediterranean, DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), and MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diets have biological mechanisms supporting their potential neuroprotective benefits, but the findings of study outcomes about these benefits have been inconsistent. This paper analyzed five Randomized Clinical Trials (RCTs) (from 2000 to 2021) and 27 observational studies (from 2010 to 2021) focused on the link between cognitive health and the Mediterranean/DASH/MIND diets to identify gaps and challenges that could lead to inconsistent results. These include a lack of accuracy in assessing food intake, multiple dietary pattern scoring systems, a shifting metric among studies focused on the Mediterranean diet, a lack of standards in the tools used to assess cognitive decline, and studies that were underpowered or had follow-up periods too short to detect cognitive change. Insights from these gaps and challenges are summarized in recommendations for future RCTs, including both pragmatic and explanatory RCTs.