In a new study from the University of Bordeaux, researchers found that healthy older people who eat two or more servings of fish a week, including salmon, tuna and sardines, may have a lower risk later in the life of developing a vascular brain disease.
This disease is a group of conditions that affect blood flow and blood vessels in the brain.
They found that eating a diet rich in fish had the greatest protective effect on people younger than 75 years old.
In the study, the team looked at 1,623 people 65 and older, with an average age of 72, who did not have dementia, stroke or a history of cardiovascular disease.
Brain scans were taken to look for three markers of vascular disease that are strong predictors of cognitive decline and dementia.
By combining these three markers, researchers came up with a single measure of underlying vascular brain disease.
People filled out questionnaires about their diets, which included information about how frequently they ate fish.
Researchers found that among people who ate no fish, 31% had markers of severe underlying vascular brain disease, compared to 23% of those who ate three servings a week, and 18% of those who ate four or more servings of fish per week.
This association between lower fish-eating and greater severity of markers of vascular brain disease was independent of any differences in brain volumes and other variables like age and sex.
When looking at age, researchers found stronger associations for younger people, but no association for people 75 and older.
In the younger people between the ages of 65 and 69 years, for whom fish was most strongly associated with brain disease, consuming fish two or three times a week was roughly equivalent, in the opposite direction, to the effect of having high blood pressure.
Consuming fish four or more times a week had double that effect.
The team says diet is a factor people can modify to possibly decrease their risk of cognitive decline and even dementia later in life.
The results are exciting because they show something as simple as eating two or more servings of fish each week is linked to fewer brain lesions and other markers of vascular brain damage, long before obvious signs of dementia appear.
If you care about dementia, please read studies about a novel light-based treatment for dementia, Parkinson’s disease and findings of sleep loss in middle age may increase dementia risk.
For more information about dementia and your health, please see recent studies about fighting dementia with play: Cognitive training may improve brain function and results showing that your neighborhood may affect your dementia risk.
The study is published in Neurology. One author of the study is Cecilia Samieri, Ph.D.
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