Brain Waves

Mindless Hype for the MIND Diet

Here’s a diet that has everything. It actually provides for a pretty good quality of nutrition. It has a buzzy acronym – MIND – that suggests a compelling and very specific benefit. And it has the American Heart Association (among others) hyping it. The MIND diet has a lot going for it. Except for one thing.

The core promise – preventing cognitive decline – is simply the product of informed speculation.

Hype That Crosses a Line

All of this is very clever medical marketing for a nutritional hypothesis. But when the American Heart Association translates that speculation into PR hype, it crosses a line from fact into speculation. And that’s what AHA did recently at its International Stroke Conference.

Specifically, it claimed that “The MIND Diet Slows Cognitive Decline in Stroke Survivors.” Way down in the fine print of the press release, it mentions limitations. “It’s observational and findings cannot be interpreted in a cause-and-effect relationship.” In other words, disregard the preceding headline.

A Fine Supposition

As far as suppositions go, the thought that the MIND diet might preserve brain function over time is not a bad one. This pattern for eating combines principles of the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet, emphasizing features that might have an effect on brain health. And researchers keep publishing more observational studies to build up a bias of familiarity with this idea.

But repetitive, observational studies add nothing to our knowledge about the real effects of this diet. What will provide better insight is a real randomized, controlled study. One is under way and due for completion in 2021.

Until then, can we lay off the hype?

Click here for the hype from AHA, here for the study abstract, and here for background from Healthline.

Brain Waves, photograph © Tirthankar Gupta / flickr

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March 17, 2018

2 Responses to “Mindless Hype for the MIND Diet”

  1. March 17, 2018 at 11:52 am, David Stone said:

    “In other words, disregard the preceding headline.”

    Indeed, and shame on them. It’s one thing for news reporters, who can claim ignorance, to conflate association with causality; but when a medical organization does it there’s no excuse. I hope you contact them. I’m going to.

    This statement, “The MIND diet…helps to greatly slow cognitive decline” raises a question. If the diet is merely helping a great slowing, what’s doing the rest of it?

    Mindless hype it is.

  2. March 17, 2018 at 12:24 pm, David Stone said:

    AHA’s website is certifed by HONcode:

    “This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: ”

    so I submitted a complaint here: