Gone fishing

Continuing on our diet and cognition theme (see recent post on the brain benefits of green tea), new research showcased at Experimental Biology 2014 (San Diego, California) has found that low consumption of fish may be a risk factor for cognitive decline. Which is good news for those of us who don’t need much of an excuse to tuck into a good feed of smoked salmon or a basketful of fruits de mer.

Researchers from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, conducted a longitudinal observational study among almost 900 participants, asking them to report on their dietary intake via questionnaires. They were concurrently put through a series of cognitive tests, including an attention test to repeat lists of numbers forward and backward, and tests of their organising and planning faculties. The tests were conducted as part of a two-year follow-up protocol.

What they found was that, overall, the study group had a low intake of the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, EPA and DHA, which are the ones associated with oily fish – and those with which previous association with cognitive benefits have been implicated. Less than 30% of the group were meeting the US dietary recommendations for consumption of oily fish – amounting to at least two portions per week (the official recommendation from the UK Department of Health is effectively the same).

Those participants in the lowest four quintiles of EPA and DHA intake were most likely to show signs of cognitive decline over the two-year study period.

Cognitive development and decline are obviously influenced by a wide range of factors, so it will always be difficult to establish a clear correlation. However, this research adds to the mounting evidence that greater intake of oily fish, such as salmon, tuna and trout in particular (which are rich in EPA and DHA) may be associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline. But it is necessary to concede that not all studies to date have revealed an association.

Identifying the causes of dementia seems to be at the top of the list for the new global world order – in today’s news we hear of a new international study whose aim is to get to the bottom of the apparent growth in incidence of this debilitating disease. Whatever their agenda, it would seem prudent to keep  our brains in tip-top condition by whatever natural means available. Call it Lobster Thermidor washed down with a delicate infusion of green tea for me!

Written by Jacqui Hogan