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Fish and Your Brain

By Maureen E. Hook, Ph.D.

Do you want to lessen your chances of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s later in life? Then, there is a simple, dietary remedy that will do just that! According to Dr. Cyrus Raji, a resident radiologist at UCLA and the lead researcher in a 2014 study, consuming fish at least once a week vastly improves the brain’s volume or size in the areas responsible for memory and cognition. Those with more voluminous brains have been shown to have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s. “If you eat fish just once a week,” he says, “your hippocampus–the big memory and learning center– is 14% larger than in people who don’t eat fish that frequently.” The study appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. In the past, researchers had thought only physical activity and weight level could affect brain structure.

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Note, however, that the fish must be broiled or baked. There were no healthful benefits deriving from fried fish. The type of fish was inconsequential. Interestingly, eating it just one time a week was as helpful as more times per week. So what does fish have that is so beneficial? At first, the researchers thought it was omega-3 fatty acids that were responsible for the benefit. However, as they looked more closely, they realized that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids didn’t affect brain size. So, they’re not really sure. Some at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine  think that fish possesses more DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) which has been shown to increase the size of the amygdala and anterior cingulate gyrus. The researchers did control for other possibly confounding factors like obesity, activity level, education, age, gender, and race, but there may be something else they haven’t thought of yet. Stay tuned as they continue to explore this connection.


What Dr. Raji and his fellow scientists do suspect, though, as a result of the fish study, is that it is really lifestyle factors (in this case, fish intake) “and not necessarily the presumed biological factors that can affect the structural integrity of the brain.” This is really very good news! What that means, then, is that we humans can affect our overall brain health by lifestyle choices of exercise and diet. We can’t completely eliminate our risk of Alzheimer’s, but we can certainly do a lot to reduce that risk.  (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/04/the-man-who-would-make-eating-obsolete/361058/).


ASK KIT KAT

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, when people are cruel to animals, are there any consequences?


Kit Kat: Not always unfortunately, but one man in Brooklyn, New York was caught kicking a cat in a very extreme way. He was discovered when someone caught him on video and posted it to Facebook. He will stood trial for a misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty, and the district attorney stated that no offer of a plea bargain would be made. I am happy to report, though, that his victim, King, who was a 1-year-old male cat at the time is doing well. He is a beautiful grey cat with white chest and feet. The event occurred on May 6, 2014, and he was adopted in June of the same year. His new owner said he does not appear to have any lasting negative effects of the incident. She says he is ‘a real New Yorker!’

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