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Fish Diet Cuts Alzheimer's Odds?

Cat scan image of human brain, with ALZHEIMER'S lettering, on texture, finished graphic
AP / CBS
A diet that includes fish may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study.

The Early Show Medical Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay explained that the health benefits of eating fish is nothing new. She says older studies have shown Omega-3 fatty acids in fish help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. But a link between eating fish and a reduction in suffering from Alzheimer's disease is something to talk about.

A study in the Archives of Neurology showed that people who consumed at least one serving of fish per week lowered their risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by 60 percent, compared to those who rarely or never ate fish.

Senay says more studies are needed to be able to confirm that it is the fish providing the protection, but the evidence seems to be pointing towards that conclusion.

It's encouraging news, Senay says, because it suggests that Alzheimer's disease risk can be reduced through a fairly simple lifestyle change such as diet. Recent studies have shown that other lifestyle choices such as engaging in activities that challenge and stimulate the brain may also help with the disease.

Omega-3 fatty acids are believed to be important for brain development. There's been a number of animal studies where rodents fed on diet rich in fatty acids had superior learning acquisition and memory performance, and they also found that brain cells improve in their ability to function when they contain this type of fat.

Senay says it's too early to recommend fish in the diet with regard to Alzheimer's disease specifically. And, she warns, certain fish may contain mercury that can be harmful if eaten in great quantity — especially for pregnant women or women who are about to become pregnant.

Omega-3 fatty acids, however, come from other sources such as nuts. Senay says the hope among the medical community is that further research will show fish, nuts and the Omega-3 acids will turn out to have benefits for the brain as well as the heart.