A press release from the Radiological Association of North America recently reported on a study that suggests regular fish consumption may reduce one’s liklihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
In the study, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center scanned the brains of 260 healthy adults, 163 who reported consuming fish one to four times per week. Using a mathematical model to control for age, gender, race, physical activity and other factors, the researchers determined that the fish eaters were three to five times less likely to have brain shrinkage, an indication of Alzheimer’s and mild cognitive impairment.
“This is the first study to establish a direct relationship between fish consumption, brain structure and Alzheimer’s risk,” the study’s author, Dr. Cyrus Raji, writes in the press release. “Consuming baked or broiled [not fried] fish promotes stronger neurons in the brain’s grey matter by making them larger and healthier. This simple lifestyle choice increases the brain’s resistance to Alzheimer’s disease and lowers risk for the disorder.”
In addition to studying brain volume, Dr. Raji and colleagues also examined how consuming fish would affect the participants’ cognitive skills over time, particularly working memory.
“Working memory, which allows people to focus on tasks and commit information to short-term memory … is destroyed by Alzheimer’s disease,” writes Dr. Raji. “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.” (Source: rsna.org)
Fish Oil Supplements May Improve Thinking
In another study reported by ScienceDaily®, researchers at Rhode Island Hospital’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center used brain imaging technology to examine the brains of 819 participants, 117 of whom reported regularly using fish oil supplements. The researchers demonstrated a positive association between regular fish oil usage and better cognitive functioning and brain structure.
“Fish oil use was associated with less brain shrinkage in patients taking these supplements,” said the lead researcher, Lori Daiello, PharmD. “We found a significant positive association between fish oil supplement use and brain volumes in two critical areas utilized in memory and thinking. These observations should motivate further study of the possible effects of long-term fish oil supplementation on important markers of cognitive decline.” (Source: sciencedaily.com)
Omega-3s and Vitamins Important for Brain Health
TIME magazine’s website reported on a study published in the journal Neurology in which researchers at Oregon Health & Science University examined 104 elderly but healthy individuals, testing their blood for various vitamins, nutrients, fats and cholesterol.
They later compared the information from the blood tests with MRI scans of the participants’ brains and with their performance on various cognitive tests. The research team discovered that those who had higher levels of vitamins B, C,
D and E and omega-3 fatty acids scored higher on the mental function tests and were less likely to suffer brain shrinkage, whereas, those who had higher levels of trans fats in their diets scored lower on the tests and experienced greater brain shrinkage.
“These results need to be confirmed,” said Dr. Gene Bowman, the lead researcher on this study, “but obviously it is very exciting to think that people could potentially stop their brains from shrinking and keep them sharp by adjusting their diet.” (Source: time.com.)
Exercise May Offset Genetic Alzheimer’s Risk
The New York Times reported on a study published in the Archives of Neurology. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis’s Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center recruited 201 adults ages 45 to 88, none of whom had then shown any symptoms of Alzheimer’s but 56 of whom had a gene that made them 15 times more likely to develop the disease.
Using positron emission tomography, the scientists checked the participants’ brains for amyloid plaques, which tend to indicate Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers then surveyed the participants regarding their physical activity levels. After controlling the numbers for age, gender, education, body mass index, hypertension, diabetes and heart problems, the researchers found that those who were genetically predisposed to develop Alzheimer’s and who walked or jogged at least five times a week had plaque accumulation that was similar to those who didn’t have the gene. Regular exercise, it appears, may have offset their genetic risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
“We found that activity levels, which are potentially modifiable, could have an impact[on their likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s],” says Denise Head, who led the study. “There are so many benefits to exercise, and one may be that it helps the brain [defend itself against memory loss].” (Source: nytimes.com