Alzheimer’s disease affects millions of older adults in the U.S.—but a study has led to the development of the MIND Diet, which offers hope for prevention of this condition.

capers MIND Diet

Because they contain very high levels of inflammation-reducing flavonols kaemferol and quercetin, raw capers may make a good addition to the MIND Diet.



The problem

More than 5 million Americans are living with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and is the most common form of dementia. It is estimated that someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s every 67 seconds in the U.S., according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s publication 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.

Multiple factors increase the risk of this disease, including age. Individuals older than 65 have the highest risk—not because Alzheimer’s disease is a normal part of aging, but because the incidence increases with age, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s CDC National Health Report: Leading Causes of Morbidity and Mortality and Associated Behavioral Risk and Protective Factors—United States, 2005–2013.


How the MIND Diet might help

Results of a 2007 study in the journal Neurogenerative Disorders show that, like other leading causes of death—heart disease, chronic lower respiratory diseases and cancer—Alzheimer’s disease also has an inflammatory component associated with it. Therefore, it makes sense that dietary treatments that reduce inflammation associated with other diseases could be applicable to Alzheimer’s disease.

The Mediterranean Diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet both have been used in the treatment of chronic diseases such as stroke, heart attack and hypertension. Both diets focus on whole grains, low-fat animal protein such as poultry and fish, nuts, and lots of nutrient-based vegetables and fruit. Foods high in saturated fat and trans-unsaturated fatty acids are avoided. In addition, sodium intake is often restricted in the DASH diet. The Mediterranean Diet allows unsaturated oils such as fish oils, olive oil, and certain nut or seed oils, as well as fats that come directly from nuts. Sugar is very limited in both diets.

Martha Clare Morris, Ph.D., and colleagues from the nutrition epidemiology department at Rush University Medical Center developed the MIND Diet; the MIND acronym stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, and combines the two diets mentioned.

Her team’s analysis covered 3,774 participants over a 15-year period, and showed that specific flavonols that help reduce inflammation—quercetin and kaemferol—might be associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline with aging. Kaemferol and quercetin are found in highest levels in raw capers.



According to the USDA Database for the Flavonoid Content of Selected Foods, Release 3, the following foods contain high levels of kaemferol (raw capers have the highest level, but the rest of the list is not presented in any particular order):

  • Raw capers
  • Saffron
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon
  • Raw arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Bay leaves
  • Snap green beans
  • Raw broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Raw Chinese cabbage
  • Swiss chard
  • Chives
  • Raw ginger
  • Raw kale
  • Mustard greens
  • Raw green onions
  • Sprouted radish seeds
  • Raw spinach
  • Watercress
  • Turnip greens
  • Chia seeds



Raw capers have the highest level, but the rest of the list is not presented in any particular order; foods high in quercetin include:

  • Raw capers
  • Ancho peppers
  • Lovage leaves
  • Raw dock leaves
  • Fresh dill weed
  • Hot wax yellow peppers
  • Corn poppy leaves
  • Buckwheat
  • Sweet potato leaves
  • Cocoa powder
  • Red onion

By following a diet rich in these foods, you can reduce the inflammation that is now believed to be a contributor to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.


Timothy Schwaiger, N.D.About the Author

Timothy Schwaiger, N.D., graduated with his naturopathic medical degree from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona, and completed a two-year residency there in family medicine. He holds a certification in HeartMath® interventions and is clinical associate professor and lead clinical faculty at Bastyr University California (