An old saying is being re-written by Alzeimer’s researchers into something like this:
Give a person a fish, they’ll eat for a day; teach a person to fish and…they’ll have less likelihood of contracting Alzheimer's.”
The study, recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked for relationships between food consumption data from the last four years of its subjects’ lives and the presence of lower neuropathologically defined Alzheimer’s disease and other indicators such as neuritic plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. It found statistically significant correlations between fish consumption and lower incidences of the indicators in people who carried the gene ApoE ε4, which increases the risk of Alzheimer's. ApoE ε4 carriers who ate fish once or more a week were 47% less likely to have a post-mortem diagnosis. (Note: Those who did not carry the ApoE ε4 gene did not show a significant decrease in Alzheimer’s risk.)
Good news! But what about mercury-levels concerns?
Mercury levels in fish are a growing concern because of our understanding of how mercury can affect childhood development, but less is known about adults. Scientists recently looked at the relationship between fish consumption, mercury levels, and neuropathology in adult brains and found evidence that even though mercury levels do increase with fish consumption this does not seem to have a negative effect on the brain.
Nicholas Bakalar of the New York Times gave a synopsis from one of the researchers:
The lead author, Martha Clare Morris, a professor of epidemiology at Rush University, said that mercury from fish appears to pose little risk for aging people. But, she said, there are studies that show that mercury consumption in pregnancy can cause cognitive problems in babies."
So hello senior citizens: enjoy your fish!
PHOTO: Mark Lincoln via Flickr
- To Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s, Eat Fish via NY Times
- Association of Seafood Consumption, Brain Mercury Level, and APOE ε4 Status With Brain Neuropathology in Older Adults via Journal of the American Medical Association