December 6, 2011

Fish for a Healthy Brain

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Time to dust off those fishing poles and start reeling towards a healthy brain! According to a recent study, people who eat baked or broiled fish on a weekly basis may be improving their brain health and reducing their risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, MCI, and Alzheimer's disease.

"This is the first study to establish a direct relationship between fish consumption, brain structure and Alzheimer's risk," Cyrus Raji, M.D, Ph.D, University of Pittsburg Medical Center and the University of Pittsburg School of Medicine, was quoted as saying. "The results showed that people who consumed baked or broiled fish at least on time per week had better preservation of gray matter volume and MRI in brain areas at risk for Alzheimer's disease."

Alzheimer's disease is an incurable, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and cognitive skills. According to the National Institute on Aging, as many as 5.1 million Americans may have Alzheimer's disease. In MCI, memory loss is present but to a lesser extent than in Alzheimer's disease. People with MCI often go on to develop Alzheimer's disease.

For the study, of the 260 patients 163 of them consumed fish on a weekly basis, and the majority ate fish one to four times per week. These individuals were cognitively normal and selected from the Cardiovascular Health Study and information on fish was gathered using the National Cancer Institute Food Frequency Questionnaire.

Each patient underwent 3D volumetric MRI of the brain. Voxel-based morphometry, a brain mapping technique that measures gray matter volume, was used to model the relationship between weekly fish consumption at baseline and brain structure 10 years later. The data were than analyzed to determine if gray matter volume preservation associated with fish consumption reduced risk for Alzheimer's disease.

Gray matter volume is crucial to brain health. When it remains higher, brain health is being maintained. Decreases in gray matter volume indicate that brain cells are shrinking.

The findings showed that consumption of baked or broiled fish on a weekly basis was positively associated with gray matter volumes in several areas of the brain and volumes in relation to fish consumption reduced the risk for five-year decline to MCI or Alzheimer's.

"Consuming baked or broiled fish promotes stronger neurons in the brain's gray matter by making them larger and healthier," Raji was quoted as saying. "This simple lifestyle choice increases the brain's resistance to Alzheimer's disease and lowers risk for the disorder."

The results also demonstrated increased levels of cognition in people who ate baked or broiled fish.

"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," Raji was quoted as saying.

Eating fried fish, on the other hand, was not shown to increase brain volume or protect against cognitive decline.