Eating baked or broiled fish once a week boosts brain health

Eating baked or broiled fish once a week may boost brain health claims several research publications:

By now, most of us are aware that omega-3 fatty acid in fish offers numerous health benefits. But now, a new study suggest that eating baked or broiled fish once a week can make the brain healthier, regardless of how much omega-3 fatty acid it contains.

The research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pennsylvania, published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine on, July 29, 2014, adds to increasing evidence that lifestyle factors could add to brain health later in life, perhaps even reducing risk of dementia.

Senior investigator James T. Becker noted that by 2040, it is estimated that 80 million people will be diagnosed with dementia – which would not only be a burden on families, but will also increase health care costs.

The research conducted earlier linked changes in lifestyle to drop in Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions of cognitive impairment in the elderly. Changes in lifestyle include lower rate of physical inactivity, smoking and obesity. The anti-oxidant effect of omega-3 fatty acids – present in high amounts in fish, nuts, seeds certain oils and brain food – is linked to improved health, especially brain health.

To further investigate the link between dietary intake and brain health, lead investigator Cyrus Raji, who now is in radiology residency training at University of California, Los Angeles, and the research team analysed data from 260 people who provided information on their dietary intake.

They had high-resolution brain MRI scans, and were cognitively normal at two time points during their participation in the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS), a 10-year multicenter effort that began in 1989 to identify risk factors for heart disease in people over 65.

“The subset of CHS participants answered questionnaires about their eating habits, such as how much fish did they eat and how was it prepared,” Raji said.

“Baked or broiled fish contains higher levels of omega-3s than fried fish because the fatty acids are destroyed in the high heat of frying, so we took that into consideration when we examined their brain scans,” said Raji.

The team found that participants who ate baked or broiled fish at least once each week had larger grey matter brain volumes in regions of the brain responsible for memory (4.3 per cent) and cognition (14 per cent). Interestingly, they were also more likely to have a college education than those who did not regularly eat fish.

But no association was found between the brain differences and blood levels of omega-3s.

“This suggests that lifestyle factors, in this case eating fish, rather than biological factors contribute to structural changes in the brain,” Dr. Becker noted. “A confluence of lifestyle factors likely is responsible for better brain health, and this reserve might prevent or delay cognitive problems that can develop later in life.”