Regular eating of fish by older adults may help lower their risk of silent brain damage that contributes to memory loss and dementia and a higher risk of stroke, because of the high level of omega-3 fatty acids in fish, according to a new finish study. Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids like tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines, among others, when ate baked or broiled — but not fried – lessens the persons’ chances of developing silent brain lesions – an area of damaged brain tissue that shows no obvious symptoms unless detected through brain scans, researchers report in the current issue of Neurology. “Previous findings have shown that fish and fish oil can help prevent stroke, but this is one of the only studies that looks at fish’s effect on silent brain infarcts in healthy, older people,” said lead researcher of the study, Jyrki Virtanen from the University of Kuopio in Finland.
In the study that followed 3,660 adults age 65 and older, the experts found that older adults who regularly eat fish may have a lower risk of this subtle brain damage referred medical to as brain infarcts, which contributes to stroke and dementia — as long as the fish is not fried. The brain damage is considered subtle because it causes no obvious symptoms and can only be detected through brain scans. They add up over a long term to the kind of brain damage that contributes to stroke and dementia. Silent brain infarcts can raise a person’s risk of both stroke and cognitive decline. It is estimated that about 20 per cent of adults age 65 and above who are free of silent infarcts will develop at least one within five years.
Among older adults in the study, those who said they ate tuna and “other” baked or broiled fish at least three times per week were 25 per cent less likely than those who rarely ate fish to have the subtle brain damage when the study started. Fish eaters also tended to be less likely to develop new signs of brain damage over the next five years. No such benefits were linked to consumption of fried fish, however, the researchers report in the August 2008 edition of the journal Neurology.
While the researchers from the University of Kuopio, could not conclusively point to the reason for the brain benefits, they suggested that it was likely that omega-3 fatty acids found mainly in oily fish — played a key role. Nevertheless, they noted that the lack of a protective effect from fried fish might stem from the fact that foods like fish burgers and fish sticks were typically made from fish low in omega-3. Whereas, a single serving per week reduced the risk by 13 percent compared to people who did not eat fish. While overall findings add to evidence that fish rich in omega-3 fats have ‘important health benefits’, researchers emphasize on the fact that eating of fried fish failed to put forward similar benefits. Virtanen said, “While eating tuna, salmon, mackerel and other types of fish seems to help protect against memory loss and stroke, these results were not found in people who regularly ate fried fish,”
They submitted that more research was needed as to why these types of fish may have protective effects, even though the omega-3 fatty acids seem to have a major role. Eating fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids would prevent the thickening or prevent the deposition of fat in blood vessels. Deposition of fat in blood vessels will tend to reduce blood flow to the brain and predisposes individuals to stroke. Therefore, if individuals eat healthy, like they take fish and use vitamin E supplements, then they are at less risk of having vessels into the brain becoming clogged and developing strokes. If there are no strokes and brain develops and functions well, then the chance of dementia is also less and that is why fish is something recommended as people get older. It was also recommend by American Heart Association recommends that all adults strive to eat at least two fish meals per week, preferably fatty fish based on previous findings which had shown that fish and fish oil can help prevent stroke.