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Elderly fish eaters have better brains

The amount of grey matter in your brain - the bit of the brain where the real work happens - decreases as you age. American researchers have discovered that fish consumption inhibits the decay. Above all, fish delays the aging of parts of the brain that we need for storing information and taking sensible decisions. That would suggest that fish eaters are less likely to get dementia.

Elderly fish eaters have better brains

The researchers made scans of the brains of 260 healthy over 75s. Ten years before the participants had described their diet.

The more often the participants ate fish, the bigger their grey matter. The figure below gives an idea of the effect of eating fish on the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that makes plans, and ensures that we don't give in to our impulses. This part of our brain not only helps us to think rationally, but also gives us our self-control and our conscience.

The brighter the colours, the bigger the grey mass in the fish eaters in relation to their peers who did not eat fish.

Elderly fish eaters have better brains

The researchers also found a similar effect on the right side of the hippocampus, as the figure below shows. The hippocampus plays a crucial role in memory function.

Elderly fish eaters have better brains

Elderly fish eaters have better brains
Elderly fish eaters have better brains

Elderly fish eaters have better brains
"There are two main findings to this study," the researchers wrote. "First, consuming baked or broiled fish at least weekly is related to larger grey mass volumes (4.3% and 14%, respectively) in areas of the brain responsible for memory and cognition in cognitively normal elderly individuals. Second, although the volumes in these brain regions were significantly related to fish consumption, they were not significantly associated with plasma omega-3 fatty acids."

"It may [...] be the case that other components contained in fish such as selenium, or in the diet of individuals who consume fish, can improve brain structure and decrease the risk for Alzheimer's disease."

"It may also be the case that eating baked or broiled fish with some regularity is a marker of a healthier lifestyle, of which consuming fish is only one part. The fact that the participants who consumed fish were more educated than those who were not may also indicate that this study could be measuring a general lifestyle effect, and not necessarily a diet-specific effect."

A bit of a moan
The researchers found no relationship between the concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood and the brain. From their conclusions it's apparent that they attach importance to the absence of a relationship. We, the ignorant compilers of this free webzine, don't understand why.

The concentration of fish fatty acids in the blood plasma of fish eaters can fluctuate quite a lot throughout the week, which is not the case for people who take a fish oil capsule every day. [J Clin Lipidol. 2013 Sep-Oct;7(5):433-40.] A more reliable measurement of omega-3 fatty acids can be taken by looking at the amount of fatty acids present in the membranes of blood cells.

Am J Prev Med. 2014 Oct;47(4):444-51.

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