A recent research claims that moderate consumption of seafood may slow down cognitive decline in dementia patients.
Past studies had shown that seafood improves cognitive abilities and brain performance, but the recent study suggests that it may also keep dementia-related brain damage to a minimum.
The study was carried out by a team of medics from the Rush University Medical Center who analyzed the brains of more than 280 Alzheimer’s patients that died with the disease. They learned that patients who had said that they routinely ate seafood at least once a week showed fewer signs of brain damage.
Study authors believe that the unexpected health benefit may be tied to omega-3 fatty acids. But they were also puzzled that fish oil supplements, which are also rich in omega 3, did not trigger a similar effect.
Additionally, the Alzheimer’s patients for whom seafood had a protective role also carried a gene dubbed APOE ε4. About 36 patients diagnosed with the disease carry this risk gene.
Other experts had been concerned that seafood may accelerate mental decline in dementia patients because it also contains mercury which damages the brain as well.
Yet, the recent research found that although the patients’ brains had high levels of the neurotoxin, mercury did not damage their brains. Researchers believe that mercury’s toxicity has been offset by selenium, another beneficial compound found in seafood.
Study authors said that past trials had confirmed that the mercury in seafood is not associated with additional brain damage in Alzheimer’s patients.
Dr Laura Phipps, lead author of the study and researcher with the Alzheimer’s Research UK, explained that moderate seafood consumption may shield the brain of Alzheimer’s patients that carry the APOE ε4 gene against cognitive decline and brain damage.
Nevertheless, Phipps also said that it was too early to draw conclusions about the entire population. She added that omega 3-rich oily fish plays a critical role in keeping the brain healthy.
Researchers noted that what has proved beneficial to one’s heart is usually proven beneficial to one’s brain, including exercise, lower blood pressure, no smoking and a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These factors had been often tied by past studies to a lower risk to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s later on.
Still, the team acknowledged that the study was too small to lead to final conclusions.
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