If it smells like fish and it tastes like fish then it must be . . . brain food? Sometimes old wives are right. According to a new study by scientists with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, eating broiled or baked fish once a week can maintain mental acuity as one grows older thereby lowering the risk of succumbing to mental health disorders such as dementia. The specific findings, recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, provide additional proof that lifestyle choices contribute to brain health later in one’s life.
For this study, funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health, the researchers looked at the medical data from 260 participants who provided information on their dietary intake. The subjects also were given “high-resolution brain MRI scans” during the course of the research project.
James T. Becker, a professor of psychiatry at Pitt, said: “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.”
He stated: “We did not find a relationship between omega-3 levels and these brain changes, which surprised us a little.” After all, the antioxidant effect of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish has long been associated with improving brain health. Becker added this led them “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.”
Furthermore, those who ate broiled or baked fished a minimum of once a week also were found to have “greater grey matter brain volumes in areas of the brain responsible for memory.” They also had “better cognitive skills” than those who did not eat fish on a regular basis.
Becker concluded: “This suggests that lifestyle factors, in this case eating fish, rather than biological factors contribute to structural changes in the brain. A confluence of lifestyle factors likely is responsible for better brain health, and this reserve might prevent or delay cognitive problems that can develop later in life.”