Fish Consumption Improves Cognitive Health


January 9, 2022

When I was young, there were rumors and anecdotal claims that “fish is brain food.” These claims were ridiculed in nutrition columns in the mainstream media. A science teacher in my high school scoffed at the idea that something in fish could support cognitive health, saying that claims of that sort “couldn’t be true because they had not been proven.”

He was right that they hadn’t been proven. But this was only because at that time no studies had been done. We’re in a better situation today. Numerous studies have confirmed that:

  • Consumption of fish improves cognitive function in the elderly.
  • Eating fish protects against dementia.
  • Both double blind studies and epidemiological data support these observations.
  • Choosing fish lower on the food chain is a way of minimizing exposure to mercury and other pollutants.
  • The effect was dose dependent. The more fish that was eaten, the greater the improvement in memory.
  • This may not be because of omega 3 fatty acids, because it doesn’t depend on the participants eating fatty fish.

From a 2007 study: “This study examined the relationship between consumption of seafood products and cognitive performance in 2031 elderly Norwegians.

The researchers report those eating at least 10 grams of fish a day performed significantly better in tests for cognitive performance than people who ate less than 10 grams of fish and fish products.

The best test scores occurred in those who consumed the most fish and fish products – about 75 grams per day. Interestingly, there was no significant difference between the consumption of lean or fatty fish, suggesting that the effects were due to something other than omega-3 fatty acids.

From a 2009 study: “Observational epidemiological data suggest that habitual consumption in later life of oily fish, rich in n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 LCPs), is associated with better cognitive function, slower rates of cognitive decline and a lower risk of dementia.”

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