Brain Food: Another Reason To Eat More Fish?


Fish could be more important for our health than we realized.


Will eating certain foods like fish or nuts prevent Alzheimer’s? While no one can yet lay claim to the perfect Alzheimer’s prevention diet, researchers are increasingly focused on the effect of consuming more Omega 3’s—fatty acids found in fish and plant oils. The hope is consuming more of these essential nutrients can prevent or reduce the risk of this mind-crippling disease.


In a recent Columbia University study published at,  researchers looked into whether certain vitamins and other nutrients could reduce amyloid plaques. Amyloid plaques are made up of clumps of beta-amyloid proteins. Higher levels of these proteins in the bloodstream are thought to play a role in developing the plaques that accumulate in the brain.  If this is true, adjusting diet to reduce beta-amyloid protein levels in blood plasma may decrease the risk for mental decline.  Of course, like most issues related to dieting and health, the development of Alzheimer’s may come as a result of a host of factors (including a genetic predisposition). This implies there are certain risks for oversimplifying the issues involved, and thus, a degree of caution is warranted.



The Focus Of The Study


The Columbia University study, which involved 1200 participants over the age of 65, set out to analyze certain nutrient intake and its effect on beta-amyloid blood protein levels. In other words, to see if consuming certain nutrients could reduce the level of these proteins in blood plasma. The nutrients studied included saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin C, Beta-carotene, vitamin B12, folate, and vitamin D.


We should all be eating more fish.

Fatty fish like salmon is high in Omega 3 fatty acids.

Interestingly, of all the nutrients tested, only the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids turns out to be effective in significantly lowering beta-amyloid levels. As mentioned, Omega 3 fats are plentiful in fish and certain plant oils (though more so in the former), which would tend to suggest that eating more fatty fish like salmon or sardines or certain nuts or seeds may contribute to a reduced risk for developing Alzheimer’s. We should point out the study’s aim was not to develop specific guidelines for eating these foods, but only to confirm or disprove whether they could impact amyloid plaque levels. Since it turns out Omega-3 fatty acids did reduce beta-amyloid in the bloodstream, more study is needed to determine why this holds true and to come up with guidelines the public can use to determine how much Omega 3 should be included in a well-balanced diet.


What's your omega 6 6o omega 3 ratio?

Nuts have many important nutrients besides Omega 3's so should be part of a balanced diet.

Confounding the issue, there is a body of evidence which suggests there’s more to the question of eating the right fat than meets the eye. Why? Some foods higher in Omega 3 fatty acids (like nuts) are also high in their close cousin Omega 6 fatty acids. Yet most people already consume far too much Omega 6 fats in their diet in relation to omega 3 fats—up to 10 or more times an amount considered healthy. This presents other health risks such as inflammation and cancer. Where do all these excess Omega 6 fats come from? Some typical sources are corn oil, soybean oil and cottonseed oil. These oils are often a main ingredient found in salad dressings and manufactured foods. To be clear, getting sufficient Omega 6 fatty acids is relatively easy without consuming any of these excess oils easy since they are already a natural part of foods like fruits, seeds, nuts and vegetables. Bottom line: While Omega 3’s may be critical for proper brain function, not getting the right combination of fats overall could result in health risks that may counteract any benefit derived from eating more of them.


People should eat more fatty fish like sardines, salmon and tuna.

Is tuna fish really good for your brain? Stay tuned.

Clearly, the new Columbia University study adds another important piece to the very complicated puzzle of Alzheimer’s. It does prove Omega 3’s reduce amyloid protein levels in blood. However, more study needs to be done to clarify the link between beta amyloid protein found in blood and the amyloid plaque found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. In addition, researchers need to establish not only the best fats to eat, but the proper ratio of fats and other nutrients to obtain the greatest benefit. Meanwhile, since foods high in Omega 3’s like fish and nuts have already been shown to be healthy for your heart it seems a good bet to make them part of a well-balanced diet.

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