MIND Diet May Boost Cognitive Development In Kids

In today’s world, parents are constantly worried about the health and well-being of their kids. They always keep an eye on what they are eating and at what time, so that it leads to the overall development of their mind and body. Another priority of the parents of school-aged children is to improve their kids' ability to concentrate and learn effectively, in which the diet plays a very crucial role.  

A recent study suggested that a diet that was created to assist in preventing cognitive decline in adults may also increase attention in preadolescents. The findings of the study may benefit future nutritional programmes that aim to enhance children’s cognition. The latest research covered two dietary patterns: the heart-healthy Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet, which combines the Mediterranean diet with the heart-healthy Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, and the Healthy Eating Index-2015 (HEI-2015), which is based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 

Shelby Keye (PhD), who was a part of the research as a doctoral student in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said, "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." "This suggests that the MIND diet could potentially improve children’s cognitive development, which is important for success in school," she added. 

The research stated that, much like the Mediterranean and DASH diets on which it is based, the MIND diet includes recommendations for specific foods, such as fresh fruit, leafy greens, and legumes, that promote brain health. According to the National Institutes of Health, the MIND diet has shown a positive impact on adults. But very few studies have been performed on children. 

What Is A MIND Diet?

According to Healthline, the MIND diet is a combination of DASH and Mediterranean diets that focuses on reducing the risk of dementia and the decline in brain health among older people. Some common foods that are suggested in the MIND diet are green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, whole grains, olive oil, fish, and a moderate amount of wine. The diet also recommends limiting butter, cheese, red meat, fried foods, and sweets.

The Details Of The Study

This new research used data collected in a previous cross-sectional study led by Naiman Khan, PhD, a professor of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The 85 participants of the study ranged in age from 7 to 11 years old and completed a seven-day diet record from which the researchers calculated HEI-2015 and MIND diet scores. To examine attentional inhibition, participants also completed a task that requires spatial attention and executive control, with their reaction time and accuracy recorded. Children with neurological disorders like ADHD or autism were excluded from the study to reduce confounding factors. 

The researchers discovered that the MIND diet scores only positively correlated with study participants’ accuracy on the task, i.e., those who followed the MIND diet performed better. However, the researchers noted that an intervention study is necessary to make any causal inferences. Next, the researchers would like to study the relationship between the MIND diet and different age groups of children to determine if a developmental effect is involved.