A Fish A Week Keeps The Brain At Its Peak

Eating fish at least once a week could help lower older patients’ risk of developing dementia.
Those who ate baked or broiled — but not fried — fish on a weekly basis had a greater volume of gray matter in areas of the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease than people who didn’t eat fish as often.  Preserving brain volume was also associated with lower rates of developing cognitive impairment.  Fish consumption benefits gray matter volume, potentially reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia long-term.

 Although a National Institutes of Health panel decided last year that nothing conclusively prevents Alzheimer’s disease, researchers continue to investigate whether a healthy diet, or specific components can have any beneficial effects.

A study of 260 people, mean age 71, were enrolled in the Cardiovascular Health Study between 1989 and 1990. At that time, they filled out questionnaires on dietary intake; 163 reported eating fish at least weekly, and some did so as often as four times a week.  All patients had an MRI 10 years later to assess brain volume, and then had follow-up cognitive testing between 2002 and 2003.

The researchers found that patients who ate fish at least once a week had greater volume in the frontal lobes and the temporal lobes, including the hippocampus and the posterior cingulate gyrus (these are the areas responsible for memory and learning, which are severely affected in Alzheimer’s disease.

Five years after the MRI, they found that 30.8% of patients who had low fish intake had developed mild cognitive impairment or dementia, compared with just 3.2% of those who had the highest fish intake and the greatest preservation of brain volume.

They also saw that 47% of patients with brain atrophy who didn’t eat fish had abnormal cognition five years later compared with 28% of those who ate more fish and had more gray matter volume.

In further analyses, the researchers found that mean scores for working memory — a function severely impaired in Alzheimer’s disease — were significantly higher among those who ate fish weekly.

This simple lifestyle choice of eating more fish increases the brain’s resistance to Alzheimer’s disease, potentially via a few mechanisms: Fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help increase blood flow to the brain and can also act as an antioxidant, thereby reducing inflammation, he said.

Omega-3s may also prevent the accumulation of amyloid plaques in the brain.

Fatty fish like salmon have more omega-3s, while smaller fish, such as cod, have less.

It would be safe to say that this study provides another hypothesis about the possible beneficial effect of a diet rich in fish ingredients and a delay of cognitive functioning like memory loss.

Bottom Line: In this study, eating fish at least once a week appeared to help lower older patients’ risk of developing dementia.

This blog has been modified from MedPage: http://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/RSNA/29957

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