Fish Consumption Could Counteract Effects of Air Pollution on Brain, Study Finds
While the effects of air pollution on the lungs have been evident for ages, its effects on the brain are less conspicuous. A recent study has revealed that air pollution can lead to many problems in the brain, such as dementia, brain shrinkage and brain aging. The study also noted that fish consumption could protect the brain from the harmful effects of air pollution.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, and was published in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. It indicated that people consuming plenty of omega-3 fatty acids might be capable to thwart the effects of air pollution on the brain.
Researchers discovered that among older women who lived in regions with high air pollution with the lowest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood had more brain shrinkage than with the women with the highest levels.
According to study author Ka He, M.D., Sc.D., of Columbia University in New York,
Fish are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and easy to add to the diet. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to fight inflammation and maintain brain structure in aging brains. They have also been found to reduce brain damage caused by neurotoxins like lead and mercury. So, we explored if omega-3 fatty acids have a protective effect against another neurotoxin, the fine particulate matter found in air pollution.
The study was performed with 1,315 women participants with an average age of 70, who did not have dementia at the beginning of the study. To begin the study, the women were asked to fill questionnaires about diet, physical activity, and medical history.
Thereafter, the questionnaire was used to analyze the average amount of fish each woman ingested each week, including roasted or baked fish, canned tuna, tuna salad, tuna casserole and non-fried shellfish.
The blood samples were taken from all the participants and the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in their red blood cells. Then the women were divided into four categories based on the amount of omega-3 fatty acids present in their blood.
Air pollution of the home towns of participants was also used as a determining factor in the study. Then, participants had brain scans with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure several areas of the brain including white matter, which is made of nerve fibers that send signals throughout the brain, and the hippocampus – the part of the brain connected with memory.
After collecting all the data, it was found that women who had the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood had greater volumes of white matter than those with the lowest levels. Women with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood also had greater volumes of the hippocampus.
The findings of the study state that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood from fish ingestion may protect brain volume as women age and possibly protect it against the potentially harmful effects of air pollution.
It is important to note that the study only discovered a link between brain volume and eating fish. It does not, however, prove that fish consumption preserves brain volume. Moreover, as the study was performed on older women, therefore the results can’t be generalized to other age groups as of yet.