French researchers recently 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 point out that this may in part be explained by the fact that the fish eaters' had a relatively higher education level.
However, the healthful fatty acids in fish could have brain-protective effects. 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."
The researchers followed more than 1,400 adults aged 68 and older for at least 2 years, and up to 7. 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.
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.
The French researchers note that fish oils could be involved in dementia risk by protecting vascular health or by reducing inflammation in the brain.
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