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Fish Consumption Linked to College Education

Update Date: Aug 04, 2014 05:29 PM EDT

New research reveals more evidence that fish consumption keeps the brain healthy. Researchers found that having a baked or broiled fish weekly can help boost brain health by keeping it younger for longer.

The latest study, conducted at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, explain that fish contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to significantly improve brain health.

"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," senior investigator James T. Becker, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, Pitt School of Medicine, said in a news release. "We did not find a relationship between omega-3 levels and these brain changes, which surprised us a little. 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."

The latest study involved data from 260 people who filled out information about their dietary intake and underwent brain scans.

Researchers said that the participants were all cognitively normal at two time points during their participants in the Cardiovascular Health Study.

"The subset of CHS participants answered questionnaires about their eating habits, such as how much fish did they eat and how was it prepared," Lead investigator Cyrus Raji, M.D., Ph.D., who now is in radiology residency training at University of California at Los Angeles, said in a news release. "Baked or broiled fish contains higher levels of omega-3s than fried fish because the fatty acids are destroyed in the high heat of frying, so we took that into consideration when we examined their brain scans."

The findings revealed that people who ate baked or broiled fish at least once a week and had greater grey matter brain volumes in regions associated with memory and cognition. Those who ate fish regularly were also more likely to have a college education compared to those who didn't eat fish regularly. However, researchers found no link between brain health and blood levels of omega-3s.

"This suggests that lifestyle factors, in this case eating fish, rather than biological factors contribute to structural changes in the brain," explained Becker. "A confluence of lifestyle factors likely are responsible for better brain health, and this reserve might prevent or delay cognitive problems that can develop later in life."

The findings are published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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