Alzheimer’s Disease may be Thwarted by Eating Lots of Fish

November 12, 2012

Alzheimer’s Disease may be Thwarted by Eating Lots of Fish

When you were young were you ever told to eat fish it helps your brain? Fish has always been known as ‘brain food’ but now a recent study may have shown proof that this really is the case.

The study was carried out by Cyrus Raji, MD, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the findings which were presented to the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, showed that baked or broiled fish, if eaten weekly by older people may increase the health of their brain.

The study used imaging scans to determine the rate of brain cells dying in the area of the brain in charge of short term memory. People who ate fish regularly were found to have fewer incidences of dead brain cells meaning that they could recall everyday things such as phone numbers. The importance of this is that people who do not lose a lot of brain cells are much less likely to develop mental impairment or Alzheimer’s disease.

Other studies have previously been carried out investigating the association between Alzheimer’s disease and eating fish. They found that the omega 3 fatty acids were the active ingredient in the fish. These studies also found that some fish were more effective than others in averting or minimizing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. However other studies giving fish oil supplements to Alzheimer’s disease sufferers did not produce positive results.

Raji asserts that, “The new study is the first to establish a direct relationship between fish consumption, brain structure, and Alzheimer’s risk”. Simply put he says, “More fish, more brain, less Alzheimer’s”.

The findings have been presented to a medical conference. However they have not yet been peer reviewed, therefore all information should be treated as preliminary. The peer review must be conducted by other experts before publication in a medical journal.

Fish is Good for the Brain

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative, incurable brain disease which affects at least 5 million people in the United States. As it progresses it slowly wipes out memory. Mild mental impairment is another condition which although not as bad as Alzheimer’s disease, shows more memory loss than normal.

The small scale study investigated 260 people with an average age of 71, who did not have any problems with their memory in 1989 -1990. All of the participants filled in questionnaires and one area covered how much fish they ate regularly and how it was cooked.

It was found that 163 people ate fish weekly. That’s about 60% of the study group, and of this group most people said that they ate fish between one and four times weekly.

All participants had their brains scanned at the commencement of the study and again, about seven years later. Raji says, “What we found is that if you don’t eat fish, brain cells die off and 47% developed Alzheimer’s disease or mild impairment over the next five years”. Yet only 3% of the regular fish eaters developed mild impairment or Alzheimer’s disease.

Other factors which could have an affect on memory loss and could affect the results were all taken into account. These factors include age, gender, educational standard, weight, and the amount of physical activity the person took. Even after all of these factors had been allowed for the link between fish, brain volume, and dementia stayed. Although the possibility of other factors such as eating more meat, or less meat could have an influence on the association between brain health and consuming fish.

The Alzheimer’s Association’s chief medical and scientific officer, William Thies, PhD, confirms that the findings agree with the Association’s recommendations. He says that eating a diet of cold-water fish rich in valuable omega-3 fatty acids is beneficial. Fish that should be eaten include halibut, mackerel, trout, salmon and tuna.

However the amounts that require to be eaten before benefits are seen is still open to debate. Theis says, “But it’s still not clear how much fish would have to be eaten to have a detectable benefit”. Raji also warns that some fish do not have the same health benefits. Some actually have toxins present which could increase the chance of developing dementia, and he adds that if you fry fish it loses any benefits to help memory.

In addition the Environmental Protection Agency makes the recommendation that eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish should be off the menu for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children because of worries about the amount of mercury present in these fish. And no more than 6 ounces of albacore tuna should be eaten in any week.

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