An article in the Well blog section of last Sunday’s New York Times reported on a study published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Preventive Medicine that suggests eating fish is associated with a healthy increase in brain volume, but it is apparently not because of its omega-3 fatty acids content.
The study analyzed data from 260 cognitively normal people (average age 78) who had answered diet questionnaires. They’d also had their omega-3 blood levels measured and their brains scanned.
“This research found that weekly consumption of baked or broiled (not fried) fish was associated with larger gray matter volumes in areas of the brain responsible for memory and cognition, including areas where amyloid plaques, a sign of Alzheimer’s disease first appear. The association persisted after controlling for age, sex, race, education, physical activity, body mass index and any tissue damage found on the initial magnetic resonance imagine scan of the brain.
“The results were the same regardless of omega-3 levels, suggesting that omega-3s were not the determining factor.
“The study’s lead author, Dr. Cyrus Raji, a radiology resident at the Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center said, “Eating fish once a week—there was no additional benefit in eating more—and living a generally healthy lifestyle were enough. Physical activity, weight control, and so on—these factors influence the brain more than any supplement or any medicine. It’s much more in our control than we thought.”
The study also points out that one recent systematic review identified observational studies of which nine demonstrated a relationship between a Mediterranean diet and improved cognition and lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
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 study participants who consumed fish were more educated than those who did not, may also indicate that this study could be measuring a general lifestyle effect and not necessarily a diet-specific effect.
Other research found a dissociation between blood omega-3 levels and brain DHA levels. DHA levels decline significantly in the aging orbitofrontal cortex.
This is not to suggest that essential omega-3 fatty acids are not relevant to brain development and brain health because we believe they are—in reasonable amounts.
The authors suggest that the data in their study should be of particular relevance to clinicians who care for individuals in the 40 to 60-year-age range and for the development of rational preventive interventions. The medical consequences of the so-called Western lifestyle, including hypertension and diabetes are increasingly recognized as independent risk factors for cognitive impairment and dementia. Interventions to modify this lifestyle have been proposed as disease-modifying approaches.
Via: Ellen Troyer, with Spencer Thornton, MD, and the Biosyntrx staff
PEARL: The evidence continues to mount that excessive omega-3 fish oil EPA / DHA supplementation is probably not the be-all, end-all health panacea that some would have us believe.
Lifestyle choices matter most. So focus on staying fit, eating as well as possible, maintaining passion for something that matters to you, enjoying friends and family and using high-quality, full-spectrum nutritional supplements to prevent nutritional deficiencies clinically proven to offset cellular damage from consuming too much empty-calorie and over processed junk foods from the center of the supermarket. These foods make us fat, speed up the aging process and find their way into our diets way too often.
FYI: The Monterey Bay Aquarium puts out a list of the safest and most sustainable seafood choices. The “best of the best” list includes:
- Albacore tuna (pole-caught from the U.S. or British Columbia)
- Freshwater coho salmon (farmed in U.S. tank systems)
- Oysters (farmed)
- Pacific sardines (wild caught)
- Rainbow trout (farmed)
- Salmon (wild caught, from Alaska)
References for today’s pearl, plus an instrument from our friends at Crestpoint Management can be found here
Again, we invite you to visit our Lifestyles tab. It includes fitness; health, beauty, & aging; transitions; pay it forward; and our Fitbit Company Challenge.
The Biosyntrx founders, staff and scientific advisory board wish our Friday Pearl readers a thoughtful and fun-filled Labor Day weekend.