“Why is fish good for the brain?” We hear about it quite often: eat fish to have a healthy brain, to increase memory and cognitive abilities. Are there some truths to those claims though? Why is fish good for our brains?
Fish has often been considered good for the human brain, namely our memory, because of its richness in phosphorus (about 100 to 200 mg per 100 g according to the fish), on the pretext that this mineral was present in the phospholipids, constituents of the cell membranes of the organism, particularly those of neuronal cell membranes.
However, consuming phosphorus would not have a direct impact on the content of phospholipid cells, let alone on our memory. This is in any case what some scientific studies argue. But this mineral is still essential to metabolism and therefore to the functioning of the brain. However, fish is not the first source of phosphorus since other foods contain more of it, such as eggs, cheese or oleaginous fruits.
The benefits of fish on the brain are real
However, even if fish does not participate directly in the stimulation of memory, its benefits on the brain are very real. Indeed, fish – particularly oily fish such as mackerel, salmon or herring – are sources of omega-3, essential fatty acids for proper brain function. Over the years, multiple scientific studies have highlighted the benefits of these lipids. They mainly concern fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
To reduce the risk of alzheimer’s disease
In prevention in healthy subjects, the regular consumption of fish would be associated with a better cognitive function and a better later semantic memory. Studies even show a 30 to 40% reduction in the risk of developing age-related vascular dementia in people who eat fish at least once a week compared to people who do not eat fish.
In people with Alzheimer’s disease or age-related vascular dementia, DHA may slow down and reduce the cognitive decline associated with these conditions. However, be careful with dietary supplements based on fish oil, rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which would not prevent degeneration of the brain, according to a study published in 2015 by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
To prevent depression
In addition to reducing the risk of degenerative diseases, oily fish could also act to prevent depression; many epidemiological studies have shown a significant link between a lower prevalence of depression and the consumption of oily fish. This effect is due to the involvement of omega-3 in the functioning of the central nervous system, at the level of neurotransmitters also targeted by antidepressants.
Eat fish twice a week
According to Havard University paper, people should consume about 12 ounces of fish per week, including a fatty fish (high omega 3 long chain) such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, smoked trout. However, like with any food of animal source, there are precautions to take.
- Limit to twice a month the consumption of freshwater fish bio-accumulators (eel, barbel, bream, carp, catfish).
- For a consumption of raw fish, quickly clean out your fish after purchase or ask your fishmonger to do it and then freeze it for 7 days in a domestic freezer before consuming it.
- Avoid the consumption of shellfish, if they do not come from an authorized and controlled breeding area.
- Pregnant women and children under 3 years of age should avoid the consumption of raw or undercooked fish and smoked fish. They must also avoid the consumption of raw or undercooked shellfish, as well as the consumption of shelled cooked shellfish.