Dec 17th, 2011 | By | Category: Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

Relationship Between Food and Brain Health

Research is increasingly showing the positive relationship between certain foods and brain health.  We all know Alzheimer’s is inherited; but what some of us don’t know is that studies are showing some foods can delay the onset of this dreaded disease.  Like fish.

For example, the Radiological Society of North America had their annual meeting recently in Chicago, and a presentation at that meeting illustrated the positive relationship between baked or broiled fish once weekly and good brain health; they demonstrated that eating baked/broiled fish cut the risk of developing memory problems.

This is the first study to establish a direct relationship between fish consumption, brain structure and Alzheimer’s risk,” said Cyrus Raji, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “The results showed that people who consumed baked or broiled fish at least one time per week had better preservation of gray matter volume on MRI in brain areas at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.”  (

Gray matter is critical to good brain health.  If gray matter deteriorates, the brain shrinks and cognitive impairment, including
Alzheimer’s disease, results.

Direct Link Between Fish Consumption, Gray Matter and Alzheimer’s Risk

This study occurred over ten years, so it’s considered a long-term study.  Brain scans revealed the changes and lack thereof of the participants.  There is a scientific explanation for how and why fish consumption can delay Alzheimer’s.  “Specific areas of gray matter in the brain are smaller in people with Alzheimer’s because the disease slices away at these regions cell by cell,” says neuropsychologist James Becker, a senior author of the study. If you start out with stronger, larger brain cells, however, it will take longer before the disease destroys so many cells that behavior and thinking start to change“, Becker says.  The researchers reported that weekly servings of baked or broiled fish make brain cells in gray matter larger and healthier.

AARP’s report on the study said, “Although the study didn’t identify the specific kinds of fish participants ate, past research ties fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, to brain health. Scientists already know that eating these fish can protect the heart. It turns out that they also protect the brain. Fried fish, on the other hand, provides no such benefits. “Frying changes the chemical composition of the omega-3 fatty acids, causing them to break down so there’s less available,” says Becker.

So seniors, add at least one weekly meal that includes salmon or mackerel or herring–broiled or baked or poached (NOT fried)–to your diet for heart and brain health.

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