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Eating Certain Fish Lowers Risk Factors for Mental Decline

A new study from researchers at the University of Kuopio in Finland adds to the already substantial body evidence that shows eating certain fish can protect your brain.

This latest study shows that three servings of fish a day was associated with a 26% decline in risk of developing brain lesions that can lead to mental decline, stroke and neurodegenerative diseases like dementia. The results are published in the August issue of Neurology, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

In the study researchers used a standardized, blind format to analyze 3,660 participants who underwent MRI brain scans between 1992 and 1994 as part of the Cardiovascular Health Study. 2,313 were scanned again in five years later. Researchers used food questionnaires to asses the dietary habits of participants.

After adjusting for outside risk factors like smoking and alcohol consumption the researchers found that eating three servings of fish per week resulted in a 26% lower risk of subclinical infarcts (measurable groups of dead cells) which are risk indicators for neuro-degenerative diseases. Eating just one serving of fish per week resulted in a 13% decrease.

The study also showed that consumption of tuna and other fish was associated with better white matter grade in the brain. White matter refers to areas in the brain where messages are passed between neurons.

While these results were extended to participants who ate either broiled or baked fish, those who ate fried fish did not see any benefits.

Researchers attribute that the benefits associated with eating fish amongst participants to the high omega-3 fatty acid content found in fish. Several studies have shown both heart and brain benefits associated with key omega-3s EPA and DHA including a decrease risk of stroke, heart disease, high cholesterol, Alzheimer's and mental decline.

A good way to get more omega-3s is to eat plenty of cold water fish like tuna, salmon, mackerel and herring. But beware of contaminants like lead or mercury that can be found in fish. A safe way to get more omega-3s without worrying about harmful contaminants is to take a quality omega-3 supplement that's certified for purity.

Neurology 2008 Aug 5;71 (6):439-46
University of Kuopio, School of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, Research Institute of Public Health, P.O. Box 1627, 70211 Kuopio, Finland jyrki.virtanen@uku.fi
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