Consumption of Fish and Seafood May Support Brain Health
Seafood and fish have long been considered key ingredients of an overall healthy diet. Studies suggest these foods, rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients, also can help support optimal brain health and healthy cognitive function.
Eating fish may even help increase brain size, according to some research.
One study examined how fish consumption affects brain volume in healthy seniors. Researchers compared fish-eating habits of 260 individuals to their brain structure, using MRIs taken in 1989-1990 with MRIs taken in 1998-1999.
Subjects who consumed baked or broiled fish at least weekly had larger gray matter volumes in areas of the brain responsible for memory (4.3%) and cognition (14%) than people who didn’t eat fish on a weekly basis, the research indicated.
Another study examined how consumption of fish and their omega-3 fatty acids may affect cognition of seniors over time. Researchers assessed participants using global scores from four standardized tests and in-home cognitive assessments performed three times over a six-year period.
Those who consumed fish once or twice weekly had higher levels of cognition over time compared with individuals who consumed less fish, the researchers suggested.
The benefits of fish are highlighted in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for American 2020-2025. Salmon, for instance, is rich in omega-3 “essential” fatty acids, which studies suggest may help support memory and cognition. In addition, salmon is high in vitamin B12, a vital component in brain development.
Salmon also contains essential amino acid tryptophan, which research indicates may help the body produce melatonin and serotonin, hormones that help regulate sleep. A good night’s sleep is essential for maintaining optimal brain health.
One study examined the effects of fish on sleep. Researchers randomly assigned 95 males into a fish group, which received Atlantic salmon three times per week from September to February, and a control group, which received an alternative meal — e.g., chicken, pork, or beef — three times weekly during the same period.
The study suggested that fish consumption seemed to have a positive impact on sleep in general, as well as on daily functioning.
No matter how you hook it, pharmacists should have no hesitation in suggesting their clients include fish as part of a well-balanced brain diet.