In our blog earlier this month we discussed how eating a diet that includes at least two servings of fish a week can help delay or protect against age related eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. But did you know that eating a diet in fish can also help improve brain functions? Let’s talk about what we know from scientific studies about fish and the benefits it can have on your brain.
Inside Your Brain
According to Healthline online, “About 60% of your brain is made of fat, and half of that fat is the omega-3 kind.” Our brain cells use omega-3 fatty acids to to build more brain and nerve cells. Therefore, these fats are used for learning and memory. Since our body doesn’t naturally produce these omega-3 fatty acids on its own, we must consume them in foods.
The National Institute of Health recommends that people consume at least 2% of their total daily calories as omega-3 fatty acids, which equals about 4 grams per day. One four-ounce piece of salmon (one of the highest natural sources of omega-3s) contains about 1.5 grams of the fatty acid. Other fish, such as tuna, sardines, and halibut, also contains high levels.
Alzheimer’s and Fish
These omega-3s are not just thought to help boost brain cell development, but to ward off degenerative brain disorders as well. There have been several studies that have begun to link eating fish rich in omega-3s with a lower risk of developing Alzheimers.
According to Ernst Schaefer, M.D., of Tufts University, people tend to make less DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) as they age, a factor that may decrease their cognitive abilities. After a 9-year study of 900 elderly people, Schaefer found that those who consumed three servings of fish per week had a significantly lower risk of developing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia than those who did not. A similar study was published in the Journal of Nutrition, with findings showing that fish intake was associated with slower cognitive decline in Chinese older adults.
A DHA deficiency may also impair the mental ability of younger people. Upon comparing rats with an adequate DHA intake to rats without it, researchers from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism concluded that rats deficient in DHA showed deficits in higher-order learning.
If you are interested in learning more about how the omega-3s in fish can help slow the decline in dementia here is a quick resource list that can help in your research.