Improving Brain Health with Fish and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

If you haven't read the post about the Mediterranean diet slowing cognitive decline I put a link below for your convenience. Although the Mediterranean diet has been shown to provide many health benefits, it isn’t the only option when discussing brain health. A dietary pattern such as the DASH diet, intended to prevent or control hypertension, is a healthy alternative that may also benefit brain health. The MIND diet (a culmination of the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet) is another good example that emphasizes food and nutrients that are shown to reduce the decline in brain health and dementia. The food provided often consists of berries, green leafy vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, poultry, and fish.

Regardless of the dietary pattern you choose, each have been associated with Alzheimer’s disease prevention and brain protection due to their antioxidant properties and neuroprotective bioactive compounds. (2)

A cohort study in southwestern France examined nutrients responsible for maintaining brain health. Participants over 68 years of age were visited to record the amount of consumption in meat, fish, or seafood with 2,5, and 7-year follow-ups (1). During the 7 year follow up, the results indicated that participants who ate fish at least once per week were less likely to have been diagnosed with dementia within the 7 years. The omega 3-fatty acid, a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), contained in fish oils, also found in nuts and extra virgin olive oil, can reduce inflammation in the brain and may contribute to the development of the brain and regeneration of nerve cells. 

Though fatty fish is a great way to obtain PUFAs, it’s not the only source. Extra virgin olive oil has a relatively good amount of PUFAs with 1 tbsp providing roughly 1.4 grams.

Additionally, nuts, a popular staple in the Mediterranean diet, provide high contents of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and PUFAs. MUFAs can lower LDL cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease while PUFAs contain both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 6 fatty acids are essential and must be consumed through diet as the body cannot produce it. 

This study provides evidence to suggest that elderly people who eat fish or seafood at least once a week are at a lower risk of developing dementia. This may be due to the contributing factors of omega 3 fatty acids which can be found in several foods, including fish, extra virgin olive oil, and nuts.

There is no single micro or macro-nutrient that completely diminishes cognitive decline due to the complexity of biochemistry. Include a variety of foods into your diet to promote a healthier lifestyle rather than fixating on a single nutrient. 

Check out some foods that you might enjoy!

White Fish with Tomatoes

Octopus Salad

Like this blog? Check out our other posts on Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) Health Benefits on Cognitive Function in Older Adults

Written by Jhun Kendrick Papio
Reviewed by Kelly Powers, MA, RDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who takes a holistic approach to nutrition and health. Kelly is a recipe developer with a food blog highlighting whole foods, simple recipes, and her life in San Francisco. She’s the creator of 52 Weeks, a weekly meal plan program that helps users get back in the kitchen and feed themselves well. Kelly is also a co-founder of Olivaio.