Eating Fish May Benefit Aging Brains

Most of us have heard that fish is “brain food’. The benefits of Omega 3’s from fish oils are well documented. According to a newer study, moderate consumption of tuna and other fish may improve the health of white matter in the brain of elders, helping to preserve memory and other cognitive skills.

According to the August 5 issue of Neurology, investigators used MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to compare individuals who consumed fish three or more times a week to those who ate fish less than once a month. They found less brain atrophy, and less evidence of subclinical infarcts (brain abnormalities that affect cognition and promote dementia) in those who regularly consumed fish.

The authors say their findings are consistent with dietary recommendations from the American Heart Association, but add that it’s important to eat your fish baked or broiled. Fried fish did not produce the same benefits – an important message for anyone providing dietary counseling to patients.

The study group, led by Jyrki Virtanen, PhD, from the University of Kuopio, in Finland, looked at 3660 participants aged 65 years and older. All of the participants received baseline MRI’s, and 2300 had a second MRI five years later. Dietary habits were assessed via questionnaire.

The researchers feel their study is large enough to carry strength, and add that they adjusted their findings “for a variety of other risk factors and lifestyle habits." Limitations include reader variability when interpreting MRI results related to markers of brain atrophy seen on MRI.

The investigators of the study recommend randomized trials to determine if fish oil can definitively prevent the high incidence of brain atrophy and subclinical infarcts seen with aging.

Keep your brain healthy by learning new things throughout life. Socially active people are most likely to remain mentally sharp. Actively engage in stress-reducing activities, and do your best not to worry about things you cannot control. Exercise, eat well, and practice good sleep hygiene. Many experts believe that sleep is essential for information processing.(1)

(1)Taking Control of Brain Health


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