Is Fish Good for the Brain?

By: Dr. Pascale Michelon

Have you heard that fish is good for the brain? Do you wonder why? What is the evidence that it has a positive impact on brain functions?

What is good in fish?
Fish, especially cold-water fish, contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as DHA, which are known to be essential for good brain health. These fish include halibut, mackerel, salmon, trout, and tuna. DHA is not produced naturally by our body and need to be acquired through our diet.Note however that not all fish is healthy. Some fish contain high level of toxins.  For instance, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends that children as well as pregnant and nursing women avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish because these fish main contain high levels of mercury.

We all need omega-3 to function well. The question is: Could eating fish help us function better? Could it help prevent or postpone brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease?

A recent study
The study, recently presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, involved 260 people, average age 71, with no memory problems in 1989-1990. All the participants filled out food questionnaires asking how much fish they ate and how they prepared it. Out of the 260, there were 163 people who ate fish at least weekly.
The participants’ brains were scanned at the beginning of the study and, on average, 7 years later, using a brain mapping technique that measures gray matter volume. The goal of the researchers was to determine whether fish consumption was associated with gray matter volume preservation and with reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Results showed that people who eat baked or broiled fish at least one time per week had better preservation of gray matter volume in brain areas at risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Their risks of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s disease were also much reduced.
In other words, eating fish was associated with improved brain health and reduced risks of dementia.
Of course, other things may affect brain health. 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.  Still, the association between fish, brain volume, and dementia remained.

Note that it is not clear yet how much fish one should eat to get the benefits. Also, other factors may explain the association observed. Eating more fish could also mean eating less meat, that is less trans and saturated fat, which is also associated with better brain health.

References
These findings have not been reviewed and published yet. They were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

Read more about the association between diet and brain health here:

5 comments on “Is Fish Good for the Brain?

  1. Elouise Levert on said:

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    I think so. I think your article will give those people a good reminding. And they will express thanks to you later

  4. Pingback: Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Memory | The Memory Practice

  5. plastic surgery houston on said:

    Though omega 3 fatty acid supplement is not as harmless as chemical compounds or medicines, overdosage can still cause some minor irritation and problems to the individual. Thus, it is important that you educate yourself as to what the manifestations of fish oil overdose are and what you can do to take care of them. Overdose though, is rare and the effects are not quite severe but will still need to be addressed.

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