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Study: Eat salmon, sardines in midlife for improved thinking, brain structure

People who eat more foods with omega-3 fatty acids, such as sardines, in midlife may think better and have better brain structure than people who don't follow this diet, a new study says. Photo by Kolibrik/Pixabay
People who eat more foods with omega-3 fatty acids, such as sardines, in midlife may think better and have better brain structure than people who don't follow this diet, a new study says. Photo by Kolibrik/Pixabay

Oct. 5 (UPI) -- People who eat more foods with omega-3 fatty acids -- such as salmon, sardines and albacore tuna -- in midlife may improve their thinking skills and have better brain structure than people who don't follow this diet, a new study suggests.

"Improving our diet is one way to promote our brain health," Claudia L. Satizabal, the study's lead author and assistant professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, said in a news release.

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She also directs the population neuroscience core at the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer's &Neurodegenerative Diseases at UT Health San Antonio.

According to Saizabal, if people could improve their "cognitive resilience" and potentially ward off dementia with simple dietary changes, that could have a significant impact on public health.

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"Even better, our study suggests that even modest consumption of omega-3 may be enough to preserve brain function," she said. "This is in line with the current American Heart Association dietary guidelines to consume at least two servings of fish per week to improve cardiovascular health."

The study's findings appeared Wednesday in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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The study involved 2,183 "cognitively healthy" adults, averaging 46 years old, who did not have dementia or stroke, the release said. The participants' levels of omega-3 fatty acids were measured, and they took tests for abstract reasoning and had MRI scans to measure brain volumes.

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The investigators noted that such studies in middle-aged people are "scarce."

The scientists found that people who ate higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids had higher average scores on a test of abstract reasoning, and they had larger average volumes in the hippocampus area of their brains, which plays an important role in memory.

Satizabal said the results must be confirmed with additional research, "but it's exciting that omega-3 levels could play a role in improving cognitive resilience, even in middle-aged people."

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She described the study as a snapshot since participants were not followed over time. So, she said, the results show an association but don't prove that eating omega-3 fatty acids will preserve brain function.

The research was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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