Holy mackerel! Could eating salmon, cod, tuna, herring or sardines keep our brains healthy and our thinking agile in middle age? New research makes this connection.
Eating cold-water fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids may preserve brain health and enhance cognition in middle age, new evidence indicates.
Having at least some omega-3s in red blood cells was associated with better brain structure and cognitive function among healthy study volunteers in their 40s and 50s, according to research published online Oct. 5 in Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Faculty of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) and other investigators of the Framingham Heart Study conducted the analysis.
Roughly 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids each day, in food or supplement form, may be the optimal amount needed to help lower blood pressure, a review of the research shows.
The analysis of dozens of studies, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, looked at the relationship between blood pressure and two omega-3 fatty acids – docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – which are found in seafood such as salmon, tuna, sardines, trout, herring and oysters. DHA and EPA can also be taken together in supplement form.
While previous research suggests omega-3 fatty acids might help lower blood pressure, the amount needed to do so has been unclear.
My patients commonly ask me whether they should try one supplement or another. Often my answer is equivocal, because for most supplements we just don’t have enough evidence to give a definite answer. This doesn’t mean that a particular patient couldn’t benefit from a specific supplement; it just means I don’t have standardized research to guide my recommendations. Sadly, this remains true of omega-3 fatty acid supplements. The results of studies looking at omega-3 supplements have been inconsistent, and have left both physicians and patients wondering what to do, according to Alyson Kelley-Hedgepeth, MD.
Omega-3 fatty acids show benefit in REDUCE-IT trial and win FDA approval
Two main omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are found mainly in fish and fish oil. Omega-3s from fish and fish oil have been recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA) for the past 20 years to reduce cardiovascular events, like heart attack or stroke, in people who already have cardiovascular disease (CVD). I have written about and been a strong advocate of getting omega-3s through diet, and sometimes through the use of supplements.
College can be a stressful time for young adults as they figure out how to manage intense daily routines that include work, study and play. Eat well, exercise and get plenty of sleep is a familiar mantra to alleviate this stress, but now with the results of his latest study, University of New Mexico (UNM) Nutrition Professor Peter Pribis is able to tell college students that walnuts could be a key to a happier state-of-mind.
In this first intervention study in humans, Pribis measured the effect of walnut consumption on mood.
“In the past, studies on walnuts have shown beneficial effects on many health outcomes like heart disease, diabetes and obesity,” said Pribis. “Our study was different because we focused on cognition, and in this controlled randomized trial (CRT) we measured mood outcomes in males and females.” Continue reading →
It looks like there is some good dietary news on the cognitive functioning horizon.
Neuroscience News says, “Study participants who received omega-3 fatty acids showed greater improvements on an object location memory task than participants who received a placebo containing sunflower oil. However, there was no evidence of improved performance on a verbal learning test. “Results from this study suggest that a long-term approach to prevention is particularly effective in preserving cognitive function in older individuals. A targeted approach involving dietary supplements can play a central role in this regard,” concluded the researchers. Emphasis mine.
“Changes in cognitive function and memory decline form a normal part of aging. However, in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease or sometimes in the case of mild cognitive impairment, these changes occur more quickly. There are currently no effective treatments for these diseases….”
I average going to Costco about once every seven to 10 days. For that reason when I saw sardines for sale there, I naturally took them as a new product. Now, I may have missed them previously, or the store may have moved them to a new position in the warehouse that became more obvious to me, but I don’t remember ever seeing them before. I like sardines and have been eating the Chicken of the Sea Brisling ones I got from a local supermarket. Naturally, I had to try the Costco ones.
First of all, why eat sardines? The World’s Healthiest Foods site says, “Sardines are named after Sardinia, the Italian island where large schools of these fish were once found. While sardines are delightful enjoyed fresh, they are most commonly found canned, since they are so perishable. With growing concern over the health of the seas, people are turning to sardines since they are at the bottom of the aquatic food chain, feeding solely on plankton, and therefore do not concentrate heavy metals, such as mercury, and contaminants as do some other fish.
“While there are six different types of species of sardines belong to the Clupeidae family, more than 20 varieties of fish are sold as sardines throughout the world. What these fish share in common is that they are small, saltwater, oily-rich, silvery fish that are soft-boned. In the United States, sardines actually refers to a small herring, and adult sardines are known as pilchards, a name that is commonly used in other parts of the world.
“Sardines are rich in numerous nutrients that have been found to support cardiovascular health. They are one of the most concentrated sources of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have been found to lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels; one serving (3.25 ounce can) of sardines actually contains over 50% of the daily value for these important nutrients. Sardines are an excellent source of vitamin B12, ranking as one of the World’s Healthiest Food most concentrated in this nutrient. Vitamin B12 promotes cardiovascular well-being since it is intricately tied to keeping levels of homocysteine in balance; homocysteine can damage artery walls, with elevated levels being a risk factor for atherosclerosis.” Continue reading →
I love the taste of lobster tail, but since I live in the Midwest the cost of flying them in has always added to their already relatively high price to put them almost out of reach of my purse strings. My personal economics has not favored eating a lot of lobster tail except on birthdays, anniversaries, etc. That is to say, once or twice a year. However, I recently got lucky and was gifted with some frozen lobster tails (thank you, Harrah’s Horseshoe Casino!). As I looked forward to preparing them I also wondered just how much food value lobster tails have.
Here is what I found out. The USDA puts the nutritional breakdown as follows: Serving size: four ounce tail (113.4 grams) Calories 105, Fat 1.1 grams no saturated or trans fats, Cholesterol none, Sodium 340 mg, Carbohydrates 1 gram and protein 22.7 grams. You need protein to build and repair tissues. The average man needs about 55 grams of protein a day so this small tail provides nearly half his daily protein requirement.
Coming out of the pot from steaming
That’s the basics. Here are some further observations I picked up. Livestrong says, “Lobster tail is not only lower in fat and calories than pork, beef, and chicken, but it is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Adding Omega-3 fatty acid into one’s daily diet will lower your risk of heart disease.”
The DailyBurn noted, “High levels of Vitamins A, B2, B3, B6 and B12. There are also sources of potassium, zinc, iron, magnesium and amino acids. Lobster tail would be a good healthy addition to add to your next meal menu.” Continue reading →
Possibly one of the oldest and most widespread cooking cliches is the fish are brain food. I can still hear my mother telling me to eat my fish “it’s good for your brain.” Well, guess what. It’s true.
WebMD says, “Fish really is brain food. A protein source associated with a great brain boost is fish — rich in omega 3 fatty acids, essential for brain function and development. These healthy fats have amazing brain power: higher dietary omega 3 fatty acids are linked to lower dementia and stroke risks; slower mental decline; and may play a vital role in enhancing memory, especially as we get older.
“For brain and heart health, eat two servings of fish weekly.”
As a senior citizen and one who has dementia in his family, I was especially gratified to learn this.
In addition to eating fish, remember that cardiovascular exercise also benefits the brain directly because it sends oxygen molecules to the brain and creates new neurotransmitters.
“Nuts to you!” Takes on all new meaning with the latest info from The Telegraph in London. The Telegraph is reporting, “Eating walnuts just two or three times a week can reduce the risk of type two diabetes by a almost a quarter, according to new research.
“A study of nearly 140,000 women in the US shows regular helpings of a small portion of nuts can have a powerful protective effect against a disease that is threatening to become a global epidemic.
“Women who consumed a 28 gramme (one ounce) packet of walnuts at least twice a week were 24 per cent less likely to develop type two diabetes than those who rarely or never ate them.
“The latest findings, published in the Journal of Nutrition, are not the first to highlight the anti-diabetic effects of walnuts, with earlier research showing similar benefits.
“However, this is thought to be one of the largest studies to find regularly snacking on them can help prevent the condition. Continue reading →
I eat healthy and read lots of articles on healthy eating. I also take supplements to ‘fill the blanks’ on any nutrients I might be missing. So when WebMD offered a quiz on Fish Oil and Omega 3s, I considered it right up my alley. I actually take a Krill Oil supplement to augment my Omega 3s.
You can take WebMD’s quiz here. Despite my general reading and actions, I scored only four out of 10 correct.
I wish you luck. Here is the first question: Taking fish oil supplements is as good for you as eating fish. True or False?
Spoiler alert! The answer is “False. Fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, and fish oil capsules all have heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
“But adding fish to your diet carries healthy bonuses that you won’t get from a supplement: calcium and vitamins B2 and D. It’s also an excellent source of protein.
“So try to eat fish more often. Have it two times a week instead of meat.
“If you have heart problems, though, you may need to boost your omega-3s with a supplement. Talk to your doctor.”
I wanted to share this first answer with you because it demonstrates a wider point, namely, it is usually better to get your nutrients from whole foods rather than pills. Maybe that’s why the pills are called ‘supplements’ because they are meant to supplement our needs not fulfill them.
I hope you did better than I did on the test. If not, at least you, like me, got a mini education in fish oil and omega 3 facts. It’s all good.