Fish may indeed be brain food, if new study findings are any indication. French researchers found that among the elderly adults they studied, those who regularly ate fish and other seafood at the study's start were less likely than others to develop dementia-including Alzheimer's disease--over the next 7 years.
The researchers followed more than 1,400 adults aged 68 and older for up to 7 years. Participants who ate fish or seafood at least once a week were found to be 34% less likely than less-frequent fish eaters to develop dementia over 7 years. When the researchers factored in education levels, the fish-dementia association weakened somewhat.
The findings do not prove that fish has a direct effect on dementia risk. The researchers point out that the fish eaters' relatively higher education may partly explain the connection they found.
A number of studies have suggested that people with higher education may be less vulnerable to memory loss and mental impairment as they age because they have what is called a greater "brain reserve."
However, omega-3 fatty acids in fish could have brain-protective effects. Factors that harm cardiovascular health, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, have also been tied to Alzheimer's risk.
And one form of dementia called vascular dementia results from an inadequate blood supply to the brain. Fish oils could be involved in dementia risk by protecting vascular health--or, alternatively, by reducing inflammation in the brain.
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