News article

Eat baked/broiled fish weekly to keep the brain young, says study

Posted:  Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Crave for food as well as healthy heart? How about add fish to your daily diet? But be cautious about how you cook it!! New study says consuming baked or broiled fish, irrespective of its omega-3 content, at least once a week might be beneficial for memory and intellect.

Researchers worldwide have discovered that eating fish regularly – two or more serves weekly – may reduce the risk of diseases ranging from childhood asthma, cardiovascular diseases, prostate cancer and other diseases typical of Western societies.

According to a study published in the “American Journal of Preventive Medicine” the researchers found that people who consumed baked/ broiled and not fried fish, at least once a week had greater grey matter volumes in the brain regions involved in memory and cognition compared to those who did not.

The researchers from the University of Pittsburgh came to this conclusion after analysing the dietary intake, cooking habits and MRI scans of 260 individuals enrolled in the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS), a 10 year multicentre survey begun in 1989.

Baking/broiling fish is known to prevent degradation of its omega-3 fatty acid content. Since the protective role of omega-3 on brain function is well known, the researchers of the present study probed the association. Much surprisingly, the serum omega-3 levels were not associated with the positive brain changes in the subjects. Dark, oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and bluefish — which are higher in omega-3s — were associated with a lower risk of heart failure than tuna or white fish like cod or sole.

Dark fish may be especially beneficial for heart health due to its high content of omega-3 fatty acids, good fats that appear to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering inflammation, blood pressure, and cell damage. (Atlantic salmon, for instance, contains roughly three to six times as much omega-3s as cod or sole.)

Studies show fried fish showed no heart-protective effect. People who ate even one serving of fried fish a week had a 48% higher risk of heart failure, compared with those who rarely or never ate it.

“This suggests that lifestyle factors, in this case eating fish, rather than biological factors contribute to structural changes in the brain. A confluence of lifestyle factors likely is responsible for better brain health, and this reserve might prevent or delay cognitive problems that can develop later in life”, said James T. Becker, Ph.D., Pitt School of Medicine.

Brain aging is typically characterised by loss of memory and other vital functions. The current study further strengthens existing evidence about lifestyle choices and brain health. Since factors such as diet, smoking status, and exercise are modifiable, inculcating best practices early on can be beneficial.

Eating fried fish on occasion is fine, especially if you serve it with a side of steamed broccoli and carrots, say, and baked, not fried, potatoes. But you’re best off choosing omega-3-rich fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, and baking, poaching or broiling it. Aim for at least two servings a week of a variety of non-fried fatty fish.