Researchers now say that eating baked or broiled fish once a week is good for the brain and that is regardless of how much fatty acid it contains. In fact, the anti-oxidant effect of omega-3 fatty acids found in high amounts in fish, seeds, nuts and certain oils have also been associated with improved health particularly brain health.
This is yet another finding to add to the growing evidence that lifestyle factors contribute to brain health later in life. Some studies have predicted that lifestyle changes, such as a reduction in rates of smoking and obesity could lead to fewer cases of Alzheimers disease and other conditions of cognitive impairment in the elderly. Scientists estimate that more than 80 million people will have dementia by 2040 which could become a substantial burden to families and drive up health care costs.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, concluded that people who ate baked or broiled fish at least once a week had greater grey matter brain volumes in areas of the brain responsible for memory 4.3 percent and cognition 14 percent. They were also more likely to have a college education than those who didnt eat fish regularly. 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, says James T. Becker, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, Pitt School of Medicine. A confluence of lifestyle factors likely are responsible for better brain health, and this reserve might prevent or delay cognitive problems that can develop later in life.
Our study shows that people who ate a diet that included baked or broiled, but not fried, fish have larger brain volumes in regions associated with memory and cognition, Becker continued. We did not find a relationship between omega-3 levels and these brain changes, which surprised us a little. It led us to conclude that we were tapping into a more general set of lifestyle factors that were affecting brain health of which diet is just one part.