Fish has always been touted as ‘brain food’ and several studies suggest that eating brain healthy food reduces the risk of dementia and other cognitive problems.
This is mainly because fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna contain excess amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for human health. It also reduces the risk of heart attacks, decreases inflammation, treats asthma, and most importantly prevents dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Since our body is unable to produce omega-3 naturally, we should consume foods that are rich in these fats to reap the benefits.
Salmon, in particular, is known as one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Apart from having a high-content of omega-3, the fish is rich in protein, B-vitamins, selenium, magnesium, and potassium as well.
And let’s not forget, salmon is very tasty and easy to prepare too. It is also a low calorie food which means that it tends to make you feel full without making you gain weight.
Experts recommend eating a serving of oily fish at least 2 -3 times a week.
Salmon reduces dementia
According to the World Health Organization, more than 47 million people are currently living with dementia worldwide. It is also expected that the numbers will triple and reach 115 million by 2050.
Although a cure for the issue has yet to be found, several researches are underway that are helping individuals make better lifestyle choices to reduce the risk of dementia and improve the quality of their life.
Recently, emphasis on dietary approaches has revealed that eating food rich in omega-3 fatty acid can be beneficial for brain health. In a research conducted by the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, patients with high levels of omega-3 had improved blood flow in specific areas of the brain.
The head of the research team Daniel Amen also commented in this regard saying: “This is a very important research because it shows a correlation between lower omega-3 fatty acid levels and reduced brain blood flow to regions important for learning, memory, [and overall mental health]. ”
The research team utilized a relatively new technique called SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography).
Unlike MRI and PET which show limited images of the brain, the SPECT is capable of fully showing the brain and its ongoing condition by measuring the blood flow.
The participants were scanned while performing various tasks and when the images were compared, there was a significant link between higher blood flow and Omega-3 index.
Random samples from 166 participants were also taken to evaluate their psychological health. The participants were divided into two groups – One with higher omega-3 consumption and the other half with lower consumption.
A brain SPECT was conducted on 128 regions of their brain while each participant also completed a computerized test to measure their mental abilities.
Result showed a significant improvement in those with higher omega-3 intake especially areas of the brain that were responsible for memory and learning – that are usually distorted due to age and dementia.
In short, the study showed a lot of positive relationships between Omega-3 fatty acids, brain perfusion, and cognition.
Professor William Harris, of South Dakota University, said: “Although we have considerable evidence that omega-3 levels are associated with better cardiovascular health, the role of the ‘fish oil’ fatty acids in mental health and brain physiology is just beginning to be explored.”
Apart from the current findings, previous research has also shown that many brain-related conditions can be prevented and even treated by taking an adequate supply of omega-3 and fish in daily diet. However, research is still underway and the team is still investigating whether it is only omega-3 that is beneficial for brain health or other nutrients present in oily fish are equally effective too.
Further research is definitely needed in this regard but the recent SPECT scans are a good start and hopefully in the future, the research team will find a permanent cure for dementia and other cognitive issues.
Omega-3 and children
Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for fetal neuro-development and pregnant women have always been advised to take at least 2 servings of oily fish per week. Since they are so important for early brain development, the omega-3 content is automatically added to babies’ milk formula.
Several studies have shown that mothers who regularly eat fish during their pregnancy have better social and verbal skills when compared to those who never ate fish.
Researchers have also claimed that many brain-related illnesses can be prevented in old age by keeping a good intake of omega-3 fatty acids in early childhood – and even in the womb.
Besides salmon and other oily fish, omega-3 fatty acid is also available in adequate amounts in nuts, beans, anchovies, egg yolk, and blueberries.
Dementia – preventable
While studies are currently headway in finding factors that put individuals at a risk of dementia, the best evidence suggests that adopting a healthy lifestyle greatly contributes in maintaining brain health. Therefore, a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, a portion of seafood, and an increased consumption of nutrients including omega-3 is necessary to maintain overall health.
Additionally, avoiding smoke, limiting alcohol intake, and staying mentally, socially, and physically engaged is not only beneficial for young adults but also enhances focus and memory in old age. Keeping a check on blood pressure and cholesterol is also equally important for maintaining health at all ages.
Even if there is no cure for dementia, precautionary measures go a long way in reducing the risk of cognitive decline as a person ages. So don’t wait for later and adopt a healthy lifestyle to prevent the risk of dementia and other brain-related illnesses.