Eat fatty or lean fish – both benefit aging brain

November 22, 2007 in Healthy Eating, Nutrition for Older Adults, Nutrition Topics in the News

Eat fatty or lean fish – both benefit aging brain

Eating oily fish is thought to be good for the brain because of the omega-3 fats. However, researchers from the University of Oxford believe that other components of fish may account for its brain-boosting effects - not just the omega-3s.

In this new study, 2,031 men and women between the ages of 70 and 74 reported their average daily intake of fish, including processed fish products and supplements derived from fish. Over 95 percent of the study population ate ten or more grams of fish or fish oil supplements every day. (Ten grams is less half an ounce.)

As compared to non-fish eaters, frequent fish eaters scored significantly higher on five out of six cognitive tests, regardless of whether they were eating lean or fatty fish. Seniors who ate processed fish products also scored higher than non-fish eaters on three tests.

Contrary to previous research, taking fish oil supplements, but not eating fish, resulted in higher performance in only one of the six cognitive tests.

The relationship between fish intake and cognition was strongly dependent on the amount of fish eaten daily. The researchers found that seniors who ate 75 grams (about 3 oz.) of fish per day had the strongest cognitive performance.    

These findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The authors hope to discover the effect of cooking method, type and species of fish in future investigations.

The bottom line: eating a little fish is better than eating no fish at all for keeping your brain sharp. For maximal benefit, have a full 3-ounce serving of fish every day. Health Canada recommends eating fish at least twice a week.

Fresh fish is delicious when poached, baked, or grilled with a little squeeze of lemon or lime. Canned fish can be mixed with a low-fat dressing and made into a sandwich. Check out our Featured Foods for more ideas on how to enjoy fatty fish or lean fish.    

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.