Most people are aware that omega-3 fatty acids in fish offer them several health benefits. A new study, which has been published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, suggests that eating baked or broiled fish weekly is beneficial to the brain, irrespective of the level of omega-3 fatty acid that is present.
The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pennsylvania researchers noted that their study adds to evidence that lifestyle factors could contribute to brain health later in life and may even reduce the risk of dementia.
According to Professor James T. Becker, a senior researcher, it is estimated that in excess of 80 million people will have dementia by 2040. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 5.2 million Americans suffer from one of the most common dementia types, Alzheimer’s disease.
The organisation estimates that by 2050 the number of people aged 65 and older with the disease could treble to around 16 million if an intervention is not implemented to slow down or prevent the disease.
Previous studies which have been done indicated that omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in nuts, seeds, certain oils and fish, have an anti-oxidant effect which is linked to improved brain health.
To investigate this link further, the researchers used data from 260 cognitively normal people from the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS). The participants underwent high-resolution brain MRI scans and provided personal dietary intake information.
Overall, the CHS was a multi-centre, 10-year study which commenced during 1989 for the investigation of heart disease risk factors for individuals aged over 65.
The lead investigator, Dr Cyrus Raji, who is currently based at the University of California, Los Angeles, explained the data collection methods by saying that the participants answered questions about their eating habits, such as the quantity of fish they consumed and the method used in preparation.
He explained that baked or broiled fish contained higher levels of omega-3 than fried fish because the acids are destroyed during the frying process due to high heat. This was taken into account when the brain scan results were examined.
The team discovered that the individuals who ate broiled or baked fish at least once a week had larger grey matter volumes in the parts of the brain which are responsible for cognition and memory. The interesting factor was that they were also more likely to have a college education than those who were not regular fish eaters.
However, Dr Becker explained that there was no link between the omega-3 blood levels and brain variances.
He added that the results of their study led them to the conclusion that they were investigating a more general set of lifestyle factors which affected brain health, and diet is a single part of it. He concluded that the study suggested that lifestyle factors, which in this instance referred to eating fish, rather than biological factors contribute to structural changes within the brain.
It was recently reported in Medical News Today that a simple walking speed test and memory could predict the risk of dementia.
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