by Randy Hartnell
There’s something fishy about people who stay mentally sharp well into their old age: namely, their diets. Two recent studies suggest that our ancestors were right to believe that fish is brain food.
The First Study
In a trial conducted at St Luke's Medical Center in Chicago,¹ the diets and mental condition of 815 people aged 65 to 94 years were monitored for an average of 3.9 years. Participants who consumed fish once per week or more had a 60 percent lower risk of Alzheimer's disease, compared with those who rarely or never ate fish. Higher intake of the omega-3 fatty acid called DHA was associated with reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. And the mentally sharp participants got their dietary DHA from its only abundant food source: fatty cold-water fish such as salmon and mackerel.
The Second Study
More recently, researchers at Tufts University in Boston² measured the fatty acid content of blood from 1,137 older men and women (mean age of 75) who were part of the famed Framingham Heart Study. Those free of symptoms of mental dementia were assessed about ten years later for signs of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Compared with those whose blood was low in the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, participants whose blood was high in DHA enjoyed a highly significant 48 percent drop in the rate of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
The results of these twin studies, and others, strongly support fish’s age-old reputation as "brain food." For the sake of your memory—and general good health—remember to make fish a regular menu item!
- Morris MC, Evans DA, Bienias JL, Tangney CC, Bennett DA, Wilson RS, Aggarwal N, Schneider J. Consumption of fish and n-3 fatty acids and risk of incident Alzheimer disease. Arch Neurol 2003 Jul;60(7):940-6.
- Schaefer EJ, et al.Plasma Phosphatidylcholine (PC) Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), Fish Intake and Risk of Dementia. American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2003. November 9-12 2003, Orlando Florida. Moderated Poster Sessions, APS.94.4M. Novel Environmental, Personal and Pharmacologic Risk Factors.