New research published Feb. 2 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that older adults with a major risk gene for Alzheimer's disease known as APOE?4 who ate at least one seafood serving per week showed fewer signs of Alzheimer's-related brain changes. In contrast, this association was not found in the brains of volunteers who ate fish weekly but did not carry the risk gene.
The researchers also examined the brains for levels of mercury, which can be found in seafood and is known to be harmful to the brain and nervous system. They found that seafood consumption was associated with increased mercury levels in the brains but not the amount of beta amyloid protein plaques and tau protein tangles, the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease.
The study aimed to determine whether seafood consumption is related to brain mercury levels, and whether either seafood consumption or brain mercury levels may play a role in the brain changes that lead to Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.
Older volunteers participating in the Memory and Aging Project (MAP) study, conducted by Rush University Medical Center, completed annual dietary questionnaires over a number of years. At the start of the study, the participants were cognitively normal, but some eventually developed cognitive impairment and dementia. The brains of 286 deceased study participants, whose average age was 89.9 years, were analyzed for neuropathologies, or detrimental brain changes, of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.
National Institute on Aging (dementia and Alzheimer disease):
Dallas Anderson, Ph.D.
NIA Division of Neuroscience
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (environmental exposures to mercury):
Cindy Lawler, Ph.D.
Chief of the NIEHS Genes, Environment, and Health branch
Reference: Morris MC, Brockman J, Schneider JA, Wang Y, Bennett DA, Tangney CC, van de Rest O. 2016. Association of seafood consumption, brain mercury level and APOE-ε4 status with brain neuropathology in older adults. JAMA.
About the National Institute on Aging: The NIA leads the federal government effort conducting and supporting research on aging and the health and well-being of older people. It provides information on age-related cognitive change and neurodegenerative disease specifically at its Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center at http://www.
About the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: NIEHS supports research to understand the effects of the environment on human health and is part of NIH. For more information on environmental health topics, visit http://www.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.
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National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Peggy Vaughn or Erin Calhoun