Brain Food? Fish, flax can reduce Alzheimer’s risk

Eating foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids (found in foods including fish, flaxseed and nuts) and weekly consumption of fish may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer disease (AD) later in life. According to the article published in the Archives of Neurology, brain cell membranes contain omega-3 fatty acids. Previous studies show that lab animals fed diets enriched with omega-3 have better nerve function and enhanced learning and memory.

In the current study, researchers examined whether consumption of fish and omega-3 fatty acids was associated with reduced risk of AD. The researchers studied 815 residents who were aged 65 to 94 years old who did not have AD at the beginning of the study and who completed a dietary questionnaire. They found that participants who ate fish once a week or more had a 60% lower risk of AD compared with those who rarely or never ate fish. The overall consumption of omega-3 fatty acids was associated with a reduced risk for AD.

“A large number of animal studies have demonstrated that dietary omega-3 increased learning acquisition and memory performance, and 2 epidemiologic studies found decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease with increased fish consumption,” write the authors. “Our findings suggest that consumption of fish (at least weekly), oil-based salad dressings and nuts may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” the researchers conclude. Omega-3 fatty acids are also available in capsule form from excellent sources such as fish oils and flax oil.

Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center, July 21, 2003