Does eating oily fish protect the brain from air pollution?
Eating fatty fish
According to a new U.S. study, regular consumption of oily fish among older women with high exposure to air pollution would protect their brains.
Photo Rudy and Peter Skitterians at Pixabay
Why it is important.
Air pollution can increase the risk of heart and lung disease.
High levels of air pollution have also been linked both to reduced cognitive abilities in children and to an increased risk of cognitive decline, and even depression, in adults.
In the elderly, the loss of brain volume and white matter occurs naturally. But environmental toxins can aggravate this problem.
Because of their anti-inflammatory properties and their protective effects against brain damage caused by neurotoxins such as lead and mercury, researchers at Columbia University in New York tried to determine whether the omega-3 fatty acids contained in fatty fish (sardines, mackerel, tuna, herring...) had protective effects against other neurotoxins: the fine particles present in the polluted air of many large cities.
What the study shows
The researchers studied the diet, physical activity level, medical history, and brain size of 1315 women, who were not suffering from dementia and had an average age of 70.
Using a food questionnaire, researchers calculated the average weekly fish consumption of each participant, including consumption of grilled, poached, baked, canned, and salted fish and shellfish. They excluded fried fish because this cooking method damages omega-3s.
The researchers then classified the participants according to the amount of omega-3 present in their blood and their level of exposure to air pollution over the past 3 years.
Finally, using an MRI, they were able to measure several areas of their brains.
The team found that women who ate more than one or two servings of omega-3-rich fish per week had a larger seahorse and more white matter.
In addition, the higher omega-3 levels associated with high exposure to air pollution affected white matter less than the same exposure with lower omega-3 levels.
"Higher levels of omega-3 in the blood from eating fish may preserve brain volume as women age and protect against the toxic effects of air pollution," said Dr. Kahe, lead author of the study.
"It is important to note, however, that our study found only one association between brain volume and fish consumption. This does not prove that eating fish preserves brain volume," he added.
Eating fish, especially fatty fish rich in omega-3s, is associated with better cardiovascular and brain health. In any case, there is therefore everything to be gained by eating more of them.
Omega-3s are found in large quantities in the flesh of fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, mackerel, anchovies and herring.
However, some fish may contain contaminants (tuna, salmon in particular). This is why it is necessary to vary the species and favor small fish, especially for children and pregnant women.
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