Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that people who eat baked or broiled fish on a weekly basis may be improving their brain health and lowering their risk of developing Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s disease. The results, released at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America established a direct relationship between fish consumption, brain structure and Alzheimer's risk.
The study determined that eating baked or broiled fish once per week led to better preservation of gray matter volume on MRI scans in brain areas at risk for Alzheimer's disease. Health-minded people may be able to dramatically lower the risk of developing this most feared memory-robbing illness.
Regular Fish Consumption Preserves Brain Volume and Cognitive Function
Dr. Cyrus Raji, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and his team developed a cohort of 260 cognitively normal individuals. Information on fish consumption was gathered using the National Cancer Institute Food Frequency Questionnaire. 163 participants consumed fish on a weekly basis, and the majority ate fish one to four times per week.
Each subject was examined using a 3-D volumetric MRI scan of the brain to measure gray matter volume. The test was used to model the relationship between weekly fish consumption at baseline and brain structure after a period of ten years. Data was then analyzed to determine if gray matter volume preservation associated with fish consumption reduced the risk for Alzheimer's disease. The study controlled for age, gender, education, race, obesity, physical activity, and the presence or absence of apolipoprotein E4 (ApoE4), a gene that increases the risk of developing Alzheimer's.
Eating Fatty Fish Once Per Week Preserves Cognitive Function
The findings showed that consumption of baked or broiled fish on a weekly basis was positively associated with gray matter volumes in several areas of the brain. Higher grey matter brain volume correlates with increased cognitive function and is commonly used to determine progression of degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s. Maintaining grey matter volume over a five-year period lowers risk of Alzheimer’s disease by five-fold.
Dr. Raji concluded “Consuming baked or broiled fish promotes stronger neurons in the brain's gray 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.” Eating fatty fish at least once per week (preferably at several meals) improves working memory and allows people to focus on tasks that commit information to short-term memory, improving cognitive function and lowering the risk from Alzheimer’s disease.