50+ health * Healthy living

Eating fish may lower Alzheimer's risk

Eating fish may lower Alzheimer s risk Five-fold reduction in risk

Eating baked or grilled fish may help to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, a study suggests.

It found that older people who ate fish just once a week were five times less likely to develop Alzheimer's or mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

People with mild cognitive impairment experience mild memory problems, but not to an extent that interferes with their daily life. Around half of people with MCI go on to develop Alzheimer's.

Some 260 men and women with an average age of 76 took part in the study, and were questioned about their diet. Of these, 163 ate fish on a weekly basis, and the majority ate fish one to four times per week.

Each person underwent two 3-D volumetric MRI scans of the brain, to measure the volume of grey matter present in different areas of the brain. The scans took place at the start of the study and ten years later.

Higher grey matter volume is essential for good brain health, the researchers said. Decreases in grey matter volume indicate that brain cells are shrinking.

The study found regularly eating fish one to four times a week was found to preserve grey matter volume in several areas of the brain, and reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer's or MCI by nearly five-fold.

The protective effect was only seen with eating baked or grilled fish. Eating fried fish, on the other hand, was not shown to increase brain volume or protect against cognitive decline.

"This is the first study to establish a direct relationship between fish consumption, brain structure and Alzheimer's risk, said Dr Cyrus Raji, who led the study.

"The results showed that people who consumed baked or broiled (grilled) fish at least one time per week had better preservation of grey matter volume on MRI in brain areas at risk for Alzheimer's disease.

"Consuming baked or broiled fish promotes stronger neurons in the brain's grey matter by making them larger and healthier. This simple lifestyle choice increases the brain's resistance to Alzheimer's disease and lowers risk for the disorder."

Dr Anne Corbett, research manager of the Alzheimer's Society, said: "This moderately sized study adds weight to existing evidence suggesting that eating fish reduces your risk of developing cognitive decline.

"However, this research did not account for lifestyle factors such as other foods or exercise which could also have had an effect.

"The best way to lessen your chance of developing dementia is to eat a healthy diet including fruit and vegetables along with taking regular exercise and giving up smoking."

This article was published on Wed 30 November 2011

Image © Tomo Jesenicnik - Fotolia.com

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