Vail Daily column: Study shows eating fish reduces Alzheimer’s risk |

Vail Daily column: Study shows eating fish reduces Alzheimer’s risk

During the past few decades, we have seen multiple speculations as to the causes of Alzheimer’s disease (i.e., aluminum from pans, cans, etc.) and, although not as many speculative cures, there have been a few. One of the latest is from a study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Its lead author, Cyrus Raji, suggests the study is the first to “link fish consumption with the reduction in risk of developing Mild Cognitive Impairment.”

This link shows that eating baked or broiled fish such salmon (fatty fish, not fried) increases gray matter volume in the brain — “greater hippocampal, posterior cingulated and orbital frontal cortex volumes in relation to fish consumption were recorded,” Raji said. It should be noted that brain matter, or rather the amount of brain matter, is one measurement of a healthy brain (generally speaking, the more gray matter, the healthier the brain).

There are some recent studies that promote antioxidants such as berries and spinach. These studies have indicated that berries contain polyphenols, a type of antioxidant which helps stop inflammation and allows brain cells to work better. A Tufts University study found that berries can reverse slowdowns in the brain’s ability to process information.

The fiber and antioxidants found in leafy greens validate Mom’s saying, “Eat your spinach.” In a national study, women in their 60s who ate more leafy vegetables over time did better than their non-greens-eating counterparts on memory, verbal and other tests. And new studies show that high levels of vitamin C, which is found in spinach, may help with dementia prevention. While it may be difficult for many to stay away from fatty foods, doing so lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Here is a summary of the study:

With nearly 5 million Americans suffering from this (currently) incurable, progressive brain disease, Raji’s study is clearly a sign of hope for the future.

“260 cognitively normal individuals were selected from the Cardiovascular Health Study. Information on fish consumption was gathered using the National Cancer Institute Food Frequency Questionnaire. There were 163 patients who consumed fish on a weekly basis, and the majority ate fish one to four times per week.

“Each patient underwent a 3D volumetric MRI of the brain. Volex-based morphometry, a brain mapping technique that measures gray matter volume, was used to model the relationship between weekly fish consumption at baseline and brain structure 10 years later. The data was then analyzed to determine if gray matter volume preservation associated with fish consumption reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

“The study controlled for age, gender, education, race, obesity, physical activity and the presence or absence of apolipoprotein E4 (ApoE4), a gene that increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

The findings showed that consumption of baked or broiled fish on a weekly basis was positively associated with gray matter volumes in several areas of the brain. Fish consumption reduced the risk for five-year decline to MCI or Alzheimer’s by almost fivefold.”

Part of the findings showed that “working memory,” that which allows us to perform everyday tasks and have positive short-term memory, was also improved. This was most likely a result of the warding off of Alzheimer’s, which is known to reduce or destroy our working memory. Thus, eating fish on a weekly basis demonstrated that cognitive function can be preserved (within normal limits) while at the same time reducing the risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The findings of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s study and Raji’s written reports were presented at the November 2011 annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. With nearly 5 million Americans suffering from this (currently) incurable, progressive brain disease, Raji’s study is clearly a sign of hope for the future.

There are many reasons for eating healthy and exercising. There should be little surprise that healthy diet, regular exercise, not smoking and other heart-healthy lifestyle measures have long been advocated to fight many ailments. Changing your eating habits may be getting more enticing.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. Contact him at or 970-328-5526.

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