Get Fishing for Brain Health

December 16, 2011

Researchers have yet again linked specific dietary habits with decreasing risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Find out here

Oily fish such as sardines, salmon, herring and mackerel are rich in omega-3s, an essential fatty acid needed for optimal brain health, known to reduce inflammation in the body, and reduce the occurrence of cardiovascular disease. Recent studies have suggested that regular consumption of fish, baked or broiled, reduces the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, found that healthy elderly people who regularly consumed baked or broiled fish, but not fried, lowered their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers tracked changes in brain scans over a ten-year period and found that those who reported eating fish at least once a week, showed less brain-cell loss in the hippocampus and frontal cortex regions of the brain; both are responsible for regulating memory. The same people also showed stronger short-term memory, allowing them to perform tasks more efficiently.

More specifically, researchers concluded that those who ate fish at least once a week, most of whom actually consumed fish one to four times a week, were significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or even mild cognitive impairment during the follow-up, compared with those who didn’t eat fish at all.

Of course, other lifestyle factors need to be considered, for example, maybe people who eat fish exercise more, or eat a more varied balanced diet of whole foods.

The fact that fish-eaters may experience brain benefits from seafood does make sense, as other studies have suggested that the omega-3 fatty acids found in some fish such as salmon can lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Specifically, omega-3 consists of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid from plant foods), the components known for their role in protecting the brain and body cells from the physiological effects of stress, reducing heart disease risk factors, possibly reducing prevalence of dementia, reducing symptoms of some skin ailments, and helping support pregnancies and infant brain and eye development. EPA and DHA are readily used by various cells in the body and contribute to the health benefits of omega-3s.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.