Study Finds That Eating Even Small Amounts Of Fish Is Really Good For The Brain


According to a new study, eating salmon, cod, tuna, herring and sardines are all amazing fish that will help keep your brain healthy and agile for those in their middle age.

New evidence from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio shows that by consuming cold-water fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids, individuals can help preserve their brain health, while also working to enhance their cognition in middle age.

The study showed that healthy volunteers whose red blood cells had higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids were seen to have ‘better brain structure and cognitive function’ those others who were between the ages of 40 and 60.

Explained by assistant professor with the Institute of Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases at UT Health, Claudia Satizabal, PhD, while most studies look at this association in older senior citizen populations usually, this new study has found that even at younger ages, when their diets consist of some omega-3 fatty acids, then they are already protecting their brains for many indicators of aging that’s usually seen in people that are middle aged. Satizabal also happens to be the lead author of this new study.

The average age of the volunteers for the study was 46. The research team observed the relation of the red blood cell omega-3 fatty acid concentrations with MRI and cognitive markers of brain aging. They also looked at the effect of omega-3 red blood cells concentrations in volunteers who carried the APOE4, which happens to be a genetic variation that’s linked to a heightened risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, which included 2,183 dementia and stroke-free participants, saw that those with higher omega-3 index were associated with bigger hippocampal volumes. This referred to the hippocampus, which is a structure in the brain that plays a vital role in memory and learning.

Moreover, researchers saw that consuming more foods with omega-3s was also linked to better abstract reasoning, which refers to the ability to better understand complex concepts via logical thinking.

The APOE4 gene is also associated with cardiovascular disease and vascular dementia. Meanwhile, those that carried the APOE4 gene that also had a higher omega-3 index had less small-vessel disease.

The researchers published their research in the journal, Neurology, in their October 5 copy. They used a technique known as gas chromatography to measure the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) concentrations from red blood cells. They calculated the omega-3 index as DHA plus EPA.

Study co-author and postdoctoral research fellow at the Biggs Institute, Debora Melo van Lent, PhD, said, “Omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA are key micronutrients that enhance and protect the brain. Our study is one of the first to observe this effect in a younger population. More studies in this age group are needed.”

In addition, the team also divided the study participants into those with very little omega-3 red blood cell concentration and those who had at least a little and more.

Satizabal explained, “We saw the worst outcomes in the people who had the lowest consumption of omega-3s. So, that is something interesting. Although the more omega-3, the more benefits for the brain, you just need to eat some to see benefits.”

However, researchers don’t exactly know how DHA and EPA protect the brain. One theory is that ‘because those fatty acids are needed in the membrane of neurons, when they are replaced with other types of fatty acids, that’s when neurons (nerve cells) become unstable.’ Moreover, they share that another possible explanation could be that ‘they have to deal with the anti-inflammatory properties of DHA and EPA.’

“It’s complex. We don’t understand everything yet, but we show that, somehow, if you increase your consumption of omega-3s even by a little bit, you are protecting your brain,” Satizabal explains.

Melo van Lent confirms that their findings that DHA and EPA also protected the brain health of APOE4 carriers is encouraging. Also referring to the vulnerability of this particular risk group, he shared, “It’s genetics, so you can’t change it. So, if there is a modifiable risk factor that can outweigh genetic predisposition, that’s a big gain.”