As people get older, their brain volume begins to shrink. It is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease and well as normal aging, according to the American Academy of Neurology.
But researchers found that women who tested for higher levels of omega-3s fatty acids in their red blood cells had larger brain volumes than other women with lower levels, particularly in a part of the brain that plays an important role in memory, a news release states. The study was published in the online issue of Neurology.
More than 1,100 women were followed for eight years as part of the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study. MRI scans revealed that the women with twice as high levels of fatty acids had a 0.7 percent larger brain volume. Their average age was 78.
“These higher levels of fatty acids can be achieved through diet and the use of supplements, and the results suggest that the effect on brain volume is the equivalent of delaying the normal loss of brain cells that comes with aging by one to two years,” said study author James V. Pottala, of the University of South Dakota in Sioux Falls and Health Diagnostic Laboratory Inc. in Richmond.
Researchers noted that the women had a larger volume in the hippocampus area of the brain, which is important for memory. The hippocampus begins to atrophy in people with Alzheimer’s disease before they begin showing signs of symptoms, the news release states.
Although the study shows an association between omega-3 intake and healthier brains, it does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish every week.
Sources: American Academy of Neurology news release, American Heart Association
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