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Fish gives you a smarter—and bigger—brain

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Eating fish and taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements is good for your memory and general cognition—and the diet even creates healthy structures in the brain.

People who have higher levels of the fatty acids in their red blood cells have a larger hippocampus, the area of the brain that’s responsible for learning and memory.

They could also protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s especially important that middle-aged people include them in their diets, say researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center.

They tested a group of 2,183 people, with an average age of 46, for their levels of fatty acids.  Those with the highest amounts had a larger hippocampus, and those who carried the APOE4 gene—a genetic variation that increases the risk of Alzheimer’s—had less small blood vessel damage, suggesting the diet was countering the higher risk profile.

The omega-3s also help with abstract thinking, the ability to understand complicated concepts through logic.

The researchers aren’t sure how the omega-3s—the DHA and EPA acids—protect the brain, but they think they are essential for healthy neuron activity, and are also anti-inflammatory, and so could be combating inflammation in the brain.

Fatty fish—such as mackerel, salmon and sardines—are the richest source of omega-3, but smaller amounts are also found in chia seeds, flaxseed oil and walnuts.

Neurology, 2022, doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000201296

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