Public Release: 

Seafood consumption may play a role in reducing risk for Alzheimer's

NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

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.

Study background:

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

Grant numbers:

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

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National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Virginia Guidry

National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Peggy Vaughn or Erin Calhoun

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