If you've been told you're at a high risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and other cognitive aging disorders, you might want to consider adding more fatty fish to your diet, according to a recent study. Researchers at the University of Illinois have discovered that consuming omega-3 fatty acids preserves cognitive flexibility, or the ability to easily switch between mental tasks, in adults who are at high risk of aging-related cognitive issues.
The study, published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, looked at 40 adults between the ages of 65 and 75 who were cognitively healthy, but carried a gene variant that made them more susceptible to late-onset Alzheimer's disease. The researchers, led by neuroscience professor Aron Barbey and M.D./Ph.D. student Marta Zamroziewicz, tested the participants for cognitive flexibility and measured their levels of two key fatty acids, EPA and DHA. They also took MRI brain scans to examine the sizes of the different parts of the participants' brains.
They found that the participants who had higher levels of the two omega-3 fatty acids performed better on the cognitive flexibility tests and appeared to have larger anterior cingulate cortexes than those who had lower levels. The anterior cingulate cortex is responsible for maintaining cognitive flexibility, among other functions.
"Our findings add to the evidence that optimal nutrition helps preserve cognitive function, slow the progression of aging, and reduce the incidence of debilitating diseases in healthy aging populations," Barbey said in a statement.
The researchers chose to focus on cognitive flexibility because so much research into the aging brain centers around memory, when in reality there are many brain functions that are just as important to preserve.
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