Posted on Jul 25, 2023, 6 p.m.
The MIND Diet which was originally designed to help adults ward off cognitive decline may also help to improve the attention in young students according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition: NUTRITION 2023, findings from this research may help inform dietary interventions with the goal of improving cognition among children.
This study examined two diets: the (HEI-2015) Healthy Eating Index which is based on the Dietary Guideline for Americans, and the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) Diet which combines the Mediterranean Diet with the heart healthy (DASH) Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Diet to create a dietary pattern that is focussed on brain health.
“We assessed how adherence to these diets was associated with children’s attentional inhibition — the ability to resist distracting stimuli — and found that only the MIND diet was positively linked with children’s performance on a task assessing attentional inhibition,” said Shelby Keye, Ph.D., who performed the work as a doctoral student in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and will be an assistant professor there this fall. “This suggests that the MIND diet could have the potential to improve children’s cognitive development, which is important for success in school.”
The MIND diet emphasizes consuming fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes like peas, beans, and lentils. It also has recommendations for specific foods like certain berries and leafy greens which are known to help promote optimal brain health. While the MIND diet has been shown to have positive effects among adults, very few studies have involved children.
Data was utilized from a previous cross-sectional study which was led by Naiman Khan, Ph.D., a professor of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. 85 participants without neurological disorders between the ages of 7-11 years old completed a diet record for 7 days which was used to calculate HEI2015 and MIND Diet scores, and they also completed tasks that required spatial attention as well as executive control to assess attentional inhibition while recording their accuracy and reaction times.
According to the researchers, the MIND Diet scores but not the HEI-2015 scores were positively related to participant accuracy on tasks, meaning that those who adhered better to the MIND Diet were found to have performed better on the tasks. However, they noted that the study only shows an association, an intervention study is required to make causal inferences.
The team would like to investigate the relationships between the MIND Diet and attention in younger children to determine if there are any differences based on age and whether a development effect might be involved.
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