Fish Consumption May Offer Critical Protection Against Alzheimer’s
November 30, 2011

Fish Consumption May Offer Critical Protection Against Alzheimer’s

According to a recent study presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), scientists have uncovered yet another salubrious effect of consuming fish. This time, American researchers say that a recent study indicates that people who consume baked or grilled fish at least once a week are at a significantly lower risk of developing Alzheimer´s disease in old age.

Not surprisingly, scientists say the explanation for fish´s protective benefits for the human brain are to be found in Omega-3 fatty acids, which help increase blood flow to the brain, reduce inflammation and curb the accumulation of harmful plaques which usually precedes the onset of cognitive impairment. Frying fish, which destroys most these healthy fats, also eliminates its anti-Alzheimer´s benefits.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh used MRI scans to follow the brain health of 260 healthy 70-something-year-old people over a period of 10 years. The results of their study have established the first direct connection between fish consumption and the health of the brain´s ℠grey cells´ which play a critical role in memory retention and various other brain functions.

Their team´s study showed that people who consumed fish at least once a week–regardless what kind–were three to five times less likely to develop Alzheimer´s symptoms than those who had little or no fish in their diets.

During the study, patients underwent periodic 3D volumetric MRIs of the brain which allowed the researches to compile data sets that could then be used to assess the volume of grey matter present in different areas of the brain. They found that the subjects who ate fish at least one to four times a week maintained higher levels of grey brain matter and significantly reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer´s disease.  Moreover, memory loss associated with the disease was also five times less likely to occur in these patients compared with their non-fish-eating counterparts.

Researchers used controls for factors like gender, age, race, obesity, and the presence or absence of apolipoprotein E4 (ApoE4), a gene that scientists have linked to an increased likelihood of developing Alzheimer´s.

The study´s lead researcher Dr. Cyrus Raji said that larger brain volume has a significant effect on the maintenance of brain health. A steadily decreasing amount of grey matter, by contrast, is a tell-tale sign of shrinking brain cells.

“Consuming baked or broiled fish promotes stronger neurons in the brain´s grey matter by making them larger and healthier,” Dr. Raji explained. “This simple lifestyle choice increases the brain´s resistance to Alzheimer´s disease and lowers risk for the disorder.”

Further corroborating this evidence, researchers indicated that the study´s fish-eating subjects also maintained higher cognitive abilities than those who ate little or no fish.

“Working memory, which allows people to focus on tasks and commit information to short-term memory, is one of the most important cognitive domains,” noted Dr. Raji. “Working memory is destroyed by Alzheimer´s disease. We found higher levels of working memory in people who ate baked or broiled fish on a weekly basis, even when accounting for other factors, such as education, age, gender and physical activity.”

Scientists have long suspected that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils help to reduce inflammation of the brain and may also be significant in the development and regeneration of brain cells and neurons.

Dr. Anne Corbett of the Alzheimer´s Society praised the study for adding to previous research connecting fish consumption with brain health. Still, she noted, the study didn´t take into account other significant lifestyle choices such as other dietary choices or regular exercise. People who eat more fish, for instance, may also generally tend to eat more healthy foods, like fresh produce, nuts and berries.

“The best way to lessen your chance of developing dementia is to eat a healthy diet including fruit and vegetables along with taking regular exercise and giving up smoking,” she added.


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