fish for your brain
August 5, 2014

Brain Food: Eat Baked Or Broiled Fish Weekly For Increased Brain Health

Rayshell Clapper for - Your Universe Online

Eating more lean meats like fish has proven to be beneficial to our health in many ways.

The American Heart Association (AHA) states that eating fish provides a good source of protein that is not high in saturated fats, which helps to keep a healthy weight as well as control cholesterol levels. Additionally, the AHA shows that fish is a protein high in the omega-3 fatty acids, which have shown to be beneficial to the hearts of healthy people as well as those at a high risk for heart disease.

The heart is not the only part of the body that may benefit from the omega-3 fatty acids in fish. A new study now shows that eating fish is also good for the brain regardless of the amount of omega-3 fatty acids that the fish provides.

According to a recent statement from the University of Pittsburgh Schools of Health Sciences, the study was led by senior investigator Dr. James T. Becker, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and lead investigator Dr. Cyrus Raji, a radiology resident at UCLA. In conjunction with their research team, Becker and Raji analyzed the data taken from 260 people. The 260 participants provided information about their dietary intake through a questionnaire, completed high-resolution brain MRI scans, and had cognitively normal reports at two time points. The information came from the Cardiovascular Health Study that was a “10-year multicenter effort beginning in 1989 to identify risk factors for heart disease in people over 65.”

The findings showed that “people who ate baked or broiled fish at least once a week had greater grey matter brain volumes in areas of the brain responsible for memory (4.3 percent) and cognition (14 percent) and were more likely to have a college education than those who didn’t eat fish regularly, the researchers found. But no association was found between the brain differences and blood levels of omega-3s.” Eating baked or broiled fish at least once a week provided the brain health benefits regardless of the amount of omega-3 fatty acids that the fish provided. This surprised the research team as they thought the findings would show the fish with more omega-3 fatty acids would provide more benefits. However, it did not matter the amount of omega-3s only that the fish had some. Eating fried fish did not provide the same benefits to the brain as baked or broiled because the high heat of frying the fish destroys the fatty acids.

Moreover, the findings suggest that lifestyle factors like eating fish on a regular basis contribute more to structural changes, such as what leads to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, in the brain than do biological factors.

Dr. Becker noted that more than 80 million people are predicted to have dementia by 2040, which will obviously be a substantial burden to society as well as the families of those with brain diseases. Other lifestyle factors, such as being more physically active and reducing smoking and obesity rates, will likely lead to fewer cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as well as other brain impairment issues.

Since omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with improved brain and heart health, the findings of the University of Pittsburgh provide great hope in further improving brain health and lowering the cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Becker noted, “A confluence of lifestyle factors likely are responsible for better brain health, and this reserve might prevent or delay cognitive problems that can develop later in life.”

For the complete study, see the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.