- The Washington Times - Monday, October 10, 2005

CHICAGO (AP) — Eating fish at least once a week is good for the brain, slowing age-related mental decline by the equivalent of three to four years, a study suggests.

The research adds to the growing evidence that a fish-rich diet helps keep the mind sharp. Previous studies found that people who ate fish lowered their risk of Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. Fish such as salmon and tuna that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids also have been shown to prevent heart disease.

For the latest study, researchers measured how well 3,718 persons did on simple tests, such as recalling details of a story. The participants, all Chicago residents 65 or older, took the tests three times over six years. They also filled out a questionnaire about what they ate that listed 139 foods.

“We found that people who ate one fish meal a week had a 10 percent slower annual decline in thinking,” said co-author Martha Clare Morris, an epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center. “Those who ate two fish meals a week showed a 13 percent slower annual decline.”

The study was posted yesterday on the Web site of the Archives of Neurology and will appear in the journal’s December issue. It was published early online because of its general interest.

The researchers looked for, but failed to find, a link between omega-3 fatty acids and protection from brain decline. Previous studies found such a link.

Mr. Morris said something else about fish consumption might have worked to keep people’s minds sharp, or the food questionnaire might have been too broad to allow researchers to estimate omega-3 intakes accurately, said Dr. Pascale Barberger-Gateau, who conducts similar research at the University of Bordeaux in France but was not involved in the study.

In the questionnaire, “only four seafood items were included, which did not allow this distinction,” Dr. Barberger-Gateau said in an e-mail.

The four seafood categories were tuna fish sandwich, fish sticks/fish cakes/fish sandwich, fresh fish as a main dish and shrimp/lobster/crab.

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