Chef Tim Says...

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Dr. Tim Says....

Fish Really Is Brain Food!

I’m sure you’ve heard the old saw, too: “Fish is brain food!” While research has shown that eating fish and omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with lower risk of Alzheimer disease and stroke, a study in the Archives of Neurology this month (Arch Neurol. 2005;62:1-5) seems to show that eating fish helps reduce the cognitive decline associated with aging.

This study’s subjects were participants in the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP), which is an ongoing study of residents 65 years and older who live in the same community. Of the 6158 persons participating in CHAP, 3718 persons received cognitive testing at the beginning of the study, with two followup tests three and then six years later.

The subjects also filled out a food questionnaire, which included 4 seafood items:

  • Tuna fish sandwich,
  • Fish sticks/fish cakes/fish sandwich,
  • Fresh fish as a main dish, and
  • Shrimp/lobster/crab.

The scientists also measured the amount of omega-3 fatty acids the subjects consumed in each week by adding together the amount of omega-3s in each seafood item that the subjects indicated they ate.

Even after controlling for factors such as race, gender, alcohol consumption, heart disease, or stroke, just one fish meal per week reduced cognitive decline by 10 to 13%. That’s equivalent to being three or four years younger, mentally!

An especially interesting finding in this study was that the results seemed to be independent of the amount of omega-3 fatty acids the study participants consumed.

We already know that omega-3 supplements are not as good as eating fish. This study is yet another reason to, as your mother might have said, “Eat your fish—it’s good for you!”

December 1, 2005

Last updated: 02/02/06