More Encouraging Research on Fish and Healthy Brains


    In a story titled, "Fish May Boost Memory, Prevent Stroke: Diet Rich In Baked Or Broiled Fish May Protect Brain From Damage That Can Lead to Dementia, Stroke," reported on a new study that gave omega-3 fatty acids another high mark. 


    Researchers reported that regularly eating non-fried fish could help older adults preserve their memory and may even avoid a certain type of stroke. The research, reported in a recent issue of Neurology, showed that older adults whose diets include three or more servings per week of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids are less likely to suffer from what is termed "silent" brain lesions that can lead to a decline in brain function and raise the risk of a vascular stroke.

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    A brain lesion, also called an infarct, is an area of brain tissue that has suffered damage. The damage is called silent if the person has not had a diagnosed stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is often called a mini-stroke.


    Silent brain lesions are common as we age, and can cause memory problems and other cognitive issues.  Fish oil has been shown, in many previous studies, to help prevent stroke, but the authors of this study say that this is one of the only studies to show the effect of fish oil on silent brain "attacks" (infarcts). 


    Eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids is what the study is about. However, most of us don't consume a perfect diet. And we also don't always know about the source of our fish and potential contamination levels.  The study mentions sardines, herring and anchovies - all of which are popular in Scandinavian countries. I haven't found a study for just those regions, but I think it would be interesting to see if that population has fewer silent infracts. 


    Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help many people with depression. They are good for a healthy heart and cholesterol levels. For those of us who don't eat perfect diets, there are many supplements available. Supplements, just like fish, should have the fewest contaminants possible, so if you go the supplement route, look for "contaminant free" omega-3 fatty acid capsules. 


    This study focused only on diet, not supplements. The study also found that the same benefits were not seen in people who regularly ate fried fish. Of the most studied and seemingly most helpful omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA seem to have the most prominent role, though more research will be needed to bear this out, and also to find out why and how they work. 


    Meanwhile, this finding shows us one more time that we can, indeed, do things to keep our brains in better working order.


    Eating the "right" kind of fish every day of one's life doesn't guarantee a perfect brain as we age, nor does it guarantee that we won't have a stroke or get Alzheimer's or other dementia.  But, unlike our genetic background, it's something that is in our control. Like exercise, supplying our bodies with what they need to stay healthy is something we can do. Why not eat more fish? And, if you are like me and aren't likely to eat right all the time, why not use supplements from a good source? This approach seems to make sense, with little chance for error.


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    While I've been waiting for a study that tells me that reading is good enough when it comes to exercise, and ice cream is a health food, I don't expect I'll see that soon. So, I'd better get myself away from the computer and books more often and move my body. I'd also better start planning more fish-based meals, and continue my supplements. It seems, to me,  like good insurance.



    Will you be making any changes to your diet based on this information? Let us know!


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Published On: August 18, 2008