Health experts say how much omega-3 fatty acid the piece of fish contains is irrelevant. As long as its baked or broiled and eaten regularly, fish can boost brain health and ward off dementia.
"Our study shows that people who ate a diet that included baked or broiled, but not fried, fish have larger brain volumes in regions associated with memory and cognition," explained Dr. James T. Becker, senior researcher and professor of psychology at Pitt School of Medicine.
"We did not find a relationship between omega-3 levels and these brain changes, which surprised us a little," Becker added. "It led us to conclude that we were tapping into a more general set of lifestyle factors that were affecting brain health of which diet is just one part."
Becker and his colleagues analyzed health data collected on 260 patients via a variety of surveys and screenings -- including dietary intake info and high-resolution brain MRI scans.
Because no link between varying levels of omega-3 fatty acids and brain health was discerned, scientists say lifestyle factors are perhaps more important than biological ones. Regular fish consumers were also found to be better educated.
"A confluence of lifestyle factors likely are responsible for better brain health," Becker pointed out, "and this reserve might prevent or delay cognitive problems that can develop later in life."
Still, omega-3s are essential, as the reason broiled and baked fish are shown to be beneficial and not fried fish is because the frying destroys the fish's healthy fatty acids.