Eating both baked and broiled fish once a week protects the brain from loosing gray matter with age, according to new research.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found no link between eating fried fish and better brain health (Raji et al., 2014).
Dr. Cyrus Raji, who led the study, explained:
“Baked or broiled fish contains higher levels of omega-3s than fried fish because the fatty acids are destroyed in the high heat of frying, so we took that into consideration…”
The data came from 260 people who had their brains scanned and who also provided information on what they had been eating.
They were all part of a 10-year study starting in 1989 which was originally designed to reveal the lifestyle factors important in cardiovascular health.
The study found that people who ate baked or broiled fish had, on average, 4.3% larger brain volumes in the areas responsible for memory and 14% larger volumes in areas responsible for cognition.
Professor James T. Becker, who co-authored the study, explained the results:
“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.
We did not find a relationship between omega-3 levels and these brain changes, which surprised us a little.
It led us 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.”
Omega-3 fatty acids, which are also found in seeds, nuts and certain oils, have been repeatedly found to enhance brain health.
However, in this study there was no link between actual omega-3 levels in the body and changes in the brain.
Dr. Becker said:
“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 are responsible for better brain health, and this reserve might prevent or delay cognitive problems that can develop later in life.”
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