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Study: Fish consumption protects brain from pollution

Researchers in the United States (US) said eating fish could help protect the brain against the detrimental effects of air pollution. These are the findings of a new study published in the journal ‘Neurology’. The lead author, Cheng Chen said a healthy diet could reduce negative effects of air pollution in the brain and consequently avert cognitive decline. Chen, a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University in the U.S. said “this is one of many studies that demonstrate that a healthy diet can reduce these negative effects of air pollution: neurodegeneration and cognitive decline.” Previous studies have shown that exposure to the smallest particles of air pollution, called PM 2.5, is associated with decreases in brain volume, which may increase the risk of memory and thinking problems as we age, the ‘New York Times’ reported.

The size of the brain is a frequent topic of study within the fields of anatomy and evolution. Brain size is sometimes measured by weight and sometimes by volume. Neuroimaging intelligence testing can be used to study the volumetric measurements of the brain. The current study involved 1,315 women ages 65 to 80, that underwent brain Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) imaging to determine brain volume. MRI is a medical imaging technique used in radiology to form pictures of the anatomy and the physiological processes of the body. The participants filled out questionnaires on their fish consumption and had blood tests to determine their levels of omega-3s, the healthy unsaturated fatty acids found in fish. Using data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the researchers tracked three-year levels of air pollution at the women’s addresses.

The scientists found that women with higher blood levels of omega-3s had significantly greater volumes of white matter in their brains, and the adverse effects of PM 2.5 on brain volume were much smaller in women with high blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Independent of omega-3 blood levels, they found that a small increase in non-fried fish consumption — one eight-ounce serving a week — was also associated with increased white matter volume.–

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