Dr Zoe says walking can reduce risk of dementia
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“I’m about to do something that should reduce chronic inflammation, improve my heart health, mood and cognition,” said Dr Mosley on his podcast Just One Thing. “I’m about to eat some oily fish – smells like the sea.” Although the doctor used to hate fish, he now tries different recipes that involve the “great brain food”.
The doctor explained that there are two “important” omega-3 fatty acids when it comes to fish – EPA and DHA.
He said: “These have been extensively studied and shown to help reduce inflammation, which is associated with a whole host of negative health outcomes, like heart disease and dementia.”
To get to the root of the link between dementia and omega-3s, Dr Mosley invited an expert to his podcast.
Dr Simon Dyall, a nutritional neuroscientist at the University of Roehampton, shared the “strong evidence” behind the positive effects of omega-3s and brain health.
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As Dr Mosley suggested, one important factor is inflammation. Dr Dyall said: “We know [omega-3s] have an important role in turning off inflammation.
“And we know that with dementia and ageing, there’s a very high inflammation component to this.”
However, the fatty acids also seem to be involved in neurogenesis, which describes the making of new brain cells.
The guest expert added: “They are also important for chemicals that help support the brain called neurotrophins.
“And they’re involved in gene regulation. So, they are fundamental at many different levels.”
However, this isn’t the only link between oily fish and the mind-robbing condition.
Studies also suggest that different societies that consumed more fish were less likely to suffer from conditions like dementia.
Dr Dyall said: “There’s a wide range of different areas where there’s fairly convincing evidence that those that eat more fish have generally better health and the oily fish are the ones that are most strongly associated with the health benefits.”
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The nutritional neuroscientist even conducted research looking into the link himself.
He told Dr Mosley: “We took women who are over 60 years of age up to, I think the oldest was 84.
“And one of the predictors for those that are at risk for dementia is a slowing in walking speed. Because walking is a very complex task.
“We supplemented them for six months, and over this time, you expect a slow decline in walking speed.
“So, in our group that got the placebo, there was the expected decline.
“But those that took the omega-3 capsules, their walking speed was slightly faster.”
If you’re unsure what fish is rich in omega-3s, Dr Mosley recommended remembering the acronym SMASH.
SMASH stands for salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring. “Smashed fish are all great sources of omega-3 fatty acids,” he said.
Also, if you follow a plant-based diet, Dr Mosley explained that seaweed or omega-3 supplements, which come from algae, are also a “good alternative”.
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