Could seafood help maintain your memory?

Summer is here... For those of you who are lucky enough to be on the beach, you might take the opportunity to enjoy some seafood. Well don’t hold yourself back! According to a recent study published in the medical journal Neurology, oysters, whelks, shrimp, and other seafood are beneficial to cognitive health, especially in the elderly. What are the benefits of eating seafood?

In their research, scientists from the medical center at Rush University (United States), and Wageningen University (the Netherlands) monitored 915 volunteers (average age: 81.4 years; 25% men) over the course of 5 years, regularly subjecting them to cognitive tests (19 in all) in order to analyze the following functions: long term memory (semantic and episodic) and short term (working) memory, perception speed, and perceptual capacity. Throughout the study, participants provided researchers with information about their eating habits. The octogenarians were then split into two groups: those who ate seafood several times a week, and those who ate it only rarely. What were the results?

Among all the functions tested, the scientists observed a slower decline in semantic memory (word memory) and perceptual memory (speed for comparing letters, objects, patterns) in the seafood eating group. These analyses were adjusted for age, sex, education, participation in cognitive activities, physical activity, alcohol consumption, and smoking. In fact, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 present in shellfish appears to have a positive effect on these two types of memory (scientists found no improvements in the other functions tested).

Martha Clare Morris, the lead author of the study, concluded that the results show that while cognitive abilities naturally diminish during normal aging, we can do something to mitigate the decline. While we already knew that certain fatty acids (also present in fish) were good for the brain, it’s possible that, in the long term, obtaining them by eating shellfish at least once a week could be even more effective in limiting cognitive decline. Sadly, crabs, lobsters, oysters and other shellfish aren’t necessarily cheap!
Source: Martha Clare Morris and coll., “APOE ?4 and the associations of seafood and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids with cognitive decline”, in Neurology, 10, 04 May 2016.

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