Doctors Say: Fish Food for Thought 

The answer to keeping your brain functioning at full capacity well into old age may be as close as your local supermarket seafood counter. 

A study to be published in the December 2005 issue of The Archives of Neurology found that cognitive decline in senior citizens who ate fish one meal a week was 10 percent slower then those who did not east fish. For participants who consumed two or more seafood meals per week the decline of mental abilities slowed by 13 percent. 

According to researchers this would be the mental equivalent of being three to four years younger in age. The Archives of Neurology is published by the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

The study involved 3,718 Chicago residents, aged 65 and older, who participated in interviews testing their mental abilities and a self-administered questionnaire that gauged their dietary intake. The participants’ cognitive abilities were retested twice over a six-year span. 

The researchers took nondietary factors into account when calculating the results. This included physical activity, alcohol consumption, depression, heart disease, hypertension, past strokes and diabetes. 

The fish friendly results did not differ between ages, races, genders, or educational levels. 

The study says it is not yet clear why eating seafood is so beneficial to the brain. However, possible hypotheses researchers are considering include the benefits of omega-3 acids in the fish and lower fat content as compared to other foods. 

”These are promising results and are supported by the fact the brain is made up of omega-3 fatty acids, [specifically] DHA,” said study co-author Martha Claire Morris, ScD, in an interview she conducted with the American Retiree in October. “There is good biological evidence that fish is good for preserving the brain as we age, but it would be good for [further] studies and clinical trials to show that fish and omega-3 fatty acids are good for the aging brain.” 

A previous study published by Morris and her research team in July 2003 also found that eating fish protects against Alzheimer Disease. 

That seven-year long study polled 815 people who had not yet been diagnosed with Alzheimer, on their food intake. The researchers then tracked participants for about 4 years to watch for the development of the condition. 

The people who consumed fish once a week were shown to have a 60% lesser risk of developing Alzheimer Disease then those who did not make seafood a part of their diet. 

Morris is a Doctor of Science and associate professor at Rush University Medical Center and associated with the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging in Chicago, IL. The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health. 

To view the December 2005 study on fish and cognitive abilities: 

For the 2003 Rush Institute for Healthy Aging study on fish and Alzheimer Disease: 

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