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June 14, 2011 • Brain Health, Healthy Living

Fish Oil and Walking for Brain Health

Worried about your memory?  I have some promising news from 2 new studies.  In the first, scientists gave a dietary supplement of DHA, the omega 3 fat that comprises much of the solid structure of the brain, to a group of healthy older adults who met the criteria for age-related cognitive decline.  A second group took a dummy pill (placebo) for comparison.  After 6 months, the study subjects taking the DHA showed significant improvement in memory and learning relative to the control group.  (Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, November 2010)

In the second study, scientists randomly assigned 120 sedentary older adults without dementia to either 40 minutes of walking (aerobic exercise) 3 times a week or 40 minutes of stretching/toning exercise 3 times a week over a period of 10 months.  The researchers took detailed MRI images of the study subject’s brains prior to and after the study.  The results were astounding.  Those in the walking group showed a significant increase in the size of the area in the brain associated with memory as well as measurable improvements in tests of memory function.  In contrast, the stretching group experienced a reduction in volume in the same area of the brain and did not exhibit significant improvements in memory function.  (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science [PNAS], January 2011)

What you can do:  Include oily fish, like salmon, tuna and sardines (the richest dietary sources of DHA) in your diet regularly and/or a supplement of fish oil.  (Talk with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements)  Get walking – strive for 30 to 60 minutes of brisk walking most days of the week. ( If you have any cardiovascular risk factors, talk with your healthcare provider before beginning an exercise program.)


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