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Increased fish intake may slow cognitive decline

August 15, 2014

A new study from China suggests that higher consumption of fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, may be associated with a slower decline in composite and verbal memory scores in older adults.

The cohort study conducted a dietary survey among 1566 adults 55 years or older and measured their cognitive performance during a mean of 5 years (1). The study results showed that participants aged 65 or older who consumed at least one serving fish per week had a significantly reduced rate of cognitive decline compared to those who ate less than one serving a week. These findings were independent of a wide array of other dietary and non-dietary factors (e.g., physical activity).

The researchers commented that although evidence remains limited, several mechanisms linking nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids in fish to cognitive health were proposed (2). However, because fish is rich in other nutrients that may benefit cognitive function, such as magnesium, selenium, vitamin D, and several B vitamins, the interplay of a number of nutrients in fish may be responsible for the health benefits of fish consumption (3). The findings of earlier research suggest that any benefits of fish consumption for delayed cognitive decline may be limited to specific population subgroups (e.g., older adults) or specific types of fish (4).

References

  1. Qin B. et al. Fish Intake Is Associated with Slower Cognitive Decline in Chinese Older Adults. The Journal of Nutrition. Published online July 2014.
  2. Das U. N. Folic acid and polyunsaturated fatty acids improve cognitive function and prevent depression, dementia, and Alzheimers disease – but how and why? Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2008; 78:11–19.
  3. Chowdhury R. et al. Association between fish consumption, long chain omega-3 fatty acids, and risk of cerebrovascular disease: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2012; 345:e6698.
  4. Kim D. H. et al. Seafood types and age-related cognitive decline in the Women’s Health Study. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2013; 68:1255–1262.