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Can oily fish protect against dementia?

9th March 2009

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have questioned the link between the consumption of oily fish and the prevention of dementia in elderly people.

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Information from a trial involving over 800 elderly subjects said that people who ate oily fish seemed to display "better cognitive function".

However the new study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Ageing, said that educational and psychological issues could be a major factor which affected the results.

Media and public attention has focused on how oily fish - which contains omega 3 fatty acids - could help to protect the brain as it aged.

The new study showed that although people who ate fish twice a week scored higher on cognitive function tests, the link disappeared when other factors were considered.

Study leader Dr Alan Dangour said: "What this shows is there is a link between people who eat oily fish and better cognitive function, but if you adjust for education and mood this relationship goes, so it's not at all clear that healthy older people get any benefit from eating fish oil."

Dr Dangour gathered the research as part of a study - to be released later in 2009 - which compared fish oil capsules with placebos. 

Rebecca Wood, of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said: "Many scientists believe there is a link between diet and reducing dementia risk. More research is desperately needed to understand the effects of diet, including omega-3 fatty acids, on the brain."

 

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