A recent study by the University of Pennsylvania found that regular fish consumption can boost gray matter, brain tissue that is made mostly of brain cells. In other words, fish consumption can boost gray matter and brain health generally. Greater density of gray matter in certain parts of the brain can lead to improved cognitive function generally, and perhaps intelligence. This study illustrates a clear link between brain health and diet and lifestyle, which is an important finding in the context of an ageing population. The takeaway: broiled or baked fish consumption cash boost gray matter; the study made no reference to canned or grilled fish.
The study was based on a previous longitudinal study in which people over the age of 65 were followed over a period of over ten years between 1989 and 1999. It would appear that fish consumption can boost gray matter (as measured with MRI scans) in two areas of the brain. The study found that people who consumed fish on a regular basis has 4.3% more gray matter in their frontal lobes than those who did not consume fish regularly. Frontal lobes are typically associated with planning and higher cognitive functions. Similarly, the high fish consumption cohort had 14% more gray matter in the areas of the brain associated with memory. Interestingly, the authors noted that the gray matter differentials were linked to actual fish consumption as opposed to omega-3 fatty acids. This latter finding is surprising, although the lead author of the study notes that pursuing greater consumption of omega-3 fatty acids naturally is basically the same as consuming more fish.
Importantly, the study took into account several factors that are believed to be implicated with gray matter, and the overall conclusion remained robust after controlling for these factors.
Fish consumption can boost gray matter: so what?
There are several implications here. Firstly, it would appear that fish consumption may be directly related to our brain health as we get older. Preserving cognitive function and memory are key to leading more independent lives as we live into old age. It also occurs to me that such a simple change in lifestyle (e.g. eating fish twice weekly) should be a matter of public policy, particularly in countries with universal healthcare systems.
What is disappointing with this study is that there was no direct evaluation of IQ between cohorts.
In any case, I know what I am eating this evening.
To test your IQ, click here (www.iq-brain.com).