Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?
Dr. Becker: We found that people who eat baked or broiled (but not fried) fish at least once every week had significantly larger brain volumes in areas critical for memory and cognition, namely, hippocampus, precuneus, posterior cingulate cortex, and orbital frontal cortex.
Medical Research: Were any of the findings unexpected?
Dr. Becker: Although we found that fish consumption was linked to brain health, we did not find an association with omega-3 fatty acids, which are the presumed biological factors that cause this improved brain volume.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Becker: Based on these and other findings, we conclude that a “brain healthy” lifestyle is the best way to reduce loss of brain tissue as we age. Not only is it important to ensure a healthier diet, but physical, social and physical activities will also promote brain health. These factors have cumulative effects, so small changes in lifestyle earlier in life will have benefits 20-30 years down the road. This is also true for age-associated medical conditions such as hypertension and diabetes – early interventions with good control of the symptoms will have important, positive effects 20-30 years on.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Becker: It will be very important to study individuals as young as 40-45 years old, and to follow them, and their brain health well into the 8th and 9th decades of life. Understanding the relationships between lifestyle factors and biological factors, and how these may affect cognitive an behavioral health should be the highest research priority.