Grandmothers, Eat Fish to Protect Your Brains! | The Institute for Creation Research

Grandmothers, Eat Fish to Protect Your Brains!
This month the American Academy of Neurology published a medical science study showing that senior women can fight air pollution hazards, including brain shrinkage, by eating seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids.1-3

Older women who eat more than one to two servings a week of baked or broiled fish or shellfish may consume enough omega-3 fatty acids to counteract the effects of air pollution on the brain, according to a new study published in the July 15, 2020, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.1

As the researchers defined an “older woman” as being between the ages of 65 to 80 (with an average of 70), which surely includes quite a few grandmothers.4

Researchers found that among older women [aged 65 to 80, with an average of 70] who lived in areas with high levels of air pollution, those who had the lowest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood had more brain shrinkage than women who had the highest levels. "Fish are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and easy to add to the diet," said study author Ka He, M.D., Sc.D., of Columbia University in New York. "Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to fight inflammation and maintain brain structure in aging brains. They have also been found to reduce brain damage caused by neurotoxins like lead and mercury. So we explored if omega-3 fatty acids have a protective effect against another neurotoxin, the fine particulate matter found in air pollution."1

That’s the plain English version. The neurological study had a more technical objective as its official investigative purpose.

To examine whether LCn3PUFA [long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids] levels modify the potential neurotoxic effects of PM2.5 [fine particular matter] exposure on normal-appearing brain volumes among dementia-free elderly women.2

How was this research conducted? What qualified as the right kind of fish (or other kinds of seafood) that helps to mitigate the effects of air pollution on brain health?

Researchers used the diet questionnaire to calculate the average amount of fish each woman consumed each week, including broiled or baked fish, canned tuna, tuna salad, tuna casserole, and non-fried shellfish. Fried fish was not included because research has shown deep frying damages omega-3 fatty acids. Participants were given blood tests.

Researchers measured the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in their red blood cells and then divided the women into four groups based upon the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood. Researchers used the women’s home addresses to determine their three-year average [during 1996-1999] exposure to air pollution. Participants then [during 2005-2006] had brain scans with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure various areas of the brain including white matter, which is composed of nerve fibers that send signals throughout the brain, and the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with memory.1

So, what were the findings of this study of 1,315 senior women? The results were stark, especially as to the comparable levels (brain volume metrics) of “white matter,” especially when correlated to air pollution indices.

After adjusting for age, education, smoking and other factors that could affect brain shrinkage, researchers found that women who had the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood had greater volumes of white matter than those with the lowest levels.1

The quantitative results were quite specific, as a function of air pollution mitigation.

Those in the highest group had 410 cubic centimeters (cm3) white matter, compared to 403 cm3 for those in the lowest group. The researchers found that for each quartile increase in air pollution levels, the average white matter volume was 11.52 cm3 smaller among people with lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids and 0.12 cm3 smaller among those with higher levels. Women with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood also had greater volumes of the hippocampus. "Our findings suggest that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood from fish consumption may preserve brain volume as women age and possibly protect against the potential toxic effects of air pollution," said [Dr. Ka] He.1

Of course, we need look no further than Scripture to see that eating fish is a nutritiously healthy choice. To illustrate how certain foods are beneficial, the Lord Jesus Christ selected fish and eggs, both rich in proteins and other necessary nutrients.

Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!5

Notice that fish is recognized as a “good gift” to be given to one’s children. Of all the examples that Christ could have chosen when giving this hypothetical, He chose to identify fish as good for eating.6

And as this recent neurological health study shows, fish and other seafood (unless deep-fried) provides long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCn3PUFAs) that can help human brains to resist air pollutant-caused harms to the brain’s “white matter,” as well as otherwise helping our blood system’s erythrocytes.1-3

As you strive to protect your brain—whether you are a “senior” woman or not—consider the benefits of enhancing your diet with finfish and shellfish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. And thank God for making these wonderful sea creatures, as well as for the hard-working humans who fish for and market seafood for your benefit.6,7

1. Staff writer. 2020. Does Eating Fish Protect our Brains from Air Pollution? ScienceDaily. Posted on July 15, 2020, accessed July 27, 2020.
2. Chen, C., P. Xun, J. D. Kaufman, et al. 2020. Erythrocyte Omega-3 Index, Ambient Fine Particle Exposure, and Brain Aging. Neurology. Posted on July 15, 2020, accessed July 27, 2020. The results were expressed technically, of course: “After adjustment for potential confounders, participants with higher levels of RBC LCn3PUFA had significantly greater volumes of white matter and hippocampus. For each inter-quartile increment (2.02%) in omega-3 index, the average volume was 5.03 cm3 (P<0.01) greater in the white matter, and 0.08 cm3 (P=0.03) greater in the hippocampus. The associations with RBC DHA and EPA levels were similar. Higher LCn3PUFA attenuated the inverse associations between PM2.5 exposure and white matter volumes in the total brain and multi-modal association areas (frontal, parietal, and temporal; all P for interaction <0.05), while the associations with other brain regions were not modified. Consistent results were found for dietary intakes LCn3PUFAs and non-fried fish.” However, the conclusion is easy enough to understand: “Findings from this prospective cohort study among elderly women suggest that the benefits of LCn3PUFAs on brain aging may include the protection against potential adverse effects of air pollution on white matter volumes.”
3. Staff writer. 2020. N3-PUFAs May Protect the Brain from Effects of Air Pollution. HealthDay News. Posted on July 15, 2020, accessed July 27, 2020. Omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods include cold-water fish (including salmon, trout, charr, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines), various crustaceans (including Dungeness crab, Norwegian lobster [Nephrops norvegicus], Maine lobster, and various shrimp varieties), and mollusk bivalves (including oysters, mussels, clams, and scallops). For a creationist summary of North Atlantic shrimp ecology and fisheries, see Johnson, J. J. S. “Littoral Treasures of Pink Gold, Illustrating Psalm 107:23-24—Great Northern Prawn [Pandalus borealis], Baltic Prawn [Palaemon adspersus], and Brown Shrimp [Crangon crangon],” Leif Eiriksson Rekefest Lecture Series (Norwegian Society of Texas, Arlington, Texas, September 28, 2019).
4. My mother-in-law felt insulted on being told by a physician, that her body was “worn out” because she was “old”—at the time she was about 104 years old! Yet by God’s generous grace she continued to live on until 3 days shy of her 106th birthday.
5. Quoting Matthew 7:9-11. See, likewise Luke 11:11-13. There are many other nutrition and health science studies that corroborate the healthiness of eating fish and shellfish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. For example, regarding beneficial anti-inflammatory effects, see the Norwegian University of Science & Technology study published as Mildenberger, J., I. Johansson, I. Sergin, et al. 2017. N-3 PUFAs Induce Inflammatory Tolerance by Formation of KEAP1-containing SQSTM1/p62-bodies and Activation of NFE2L2. Autophagy. 13 (10): 1664-1678.
6. According to Acts 14:17, good food is actually an irrefutable proof of God’s caring providence for humans. See Johnson, J. J. S. 2011. Our Daily Bread: How Food Proves God’s Providence. Acts & Facts. 40(3):8-9. See also 1 Timothy 4:1-5 and 1 Corinthians 10:31.
7. Johnson, J. J. S. 2020. Fish Farming Feeds Scots, But It’s Not Getting Easier. Creation Science Update. Posted on April 21, 2020, accessed July 27, 2020. See also Johnson, J. J. S. 2015. Nordic Salmon Farming: Responding to the Genesis Mandate. Nordic Legacy Series (Norwegian Society of Texas, Fort Worth: April 26, 2015).

*Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.
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