Is seafood good for the brain?
Researchers investigate the association between seafood consumption and brain health. Various studies have found an association between seafood consumption and a lower risk of dementia.
Seafood is rich in long-chain n-3 fatty acid, which may promote healthy neurological function. On the down side, seafood is also a source of mercury, which can damage the brain.
It’s not well researched as to whether mercury levels affect the protection associated with consuming seafood, which is why a group of researchers investigated the association between seafood consumption, brain levels of mercury, dietary n-3 fatty acids and signs of dementia in the brain.
They examined the brains of deceased people who were part of a study of older adults followed in their older years until death.
Part of the study involved food frequency questionnaires that assessed, among other things, seafood intake. From this, researchers computed n-3 fatty acid intake. People were also asked about their intake of fish oil supplements.
The brain autopsies were used to assess dementia neuropathologies and mercury levels. Moderate seafood consumption was correlated with a lower presence of brain Alzheimer disease neuropathology in people with APOE 4 status.
This is a variation of a gene we all carry which is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The good news was that while seafood consumption was correlated with increased brain levels of mercury, these mercury levels weren’t significantly correlated with increased brain neuropathology.
This was an observational study so causality can’t be confirmed. Nevertheless, the results suggest that seafood may play a role in supporting brain health, particularly in those who are at increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Fish is also healthy meal option for those trying to lose weight, provided it isn’t fried.
Furthermore, research suggests the benefits also come from substituting fish for red meat.
Last Reviewed: 16/09/2019
Norman Swan Medical Communications
Morris, M et al. Association of Seafood Consumption, Brain Mercury Level and APOE 4 With Brain Neuropathology in Older Adults. JAMA. 2016; 315(5): 489-497. Doi: 10.1001/jama.2015.19451