Feb 10, 2016

Can eating fish reduce Alzheimer's Risk? What about Mercury?

Researchers also found that seafood consumption was associated with less Alzheimer’s disease


Multiple scientific studies have found that eating seafood helps protect against dementia.

Mercury from seafood is not associated with greater harm to brain.

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This new research at Rush University Medical Center was conducted 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.

  • The research published 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.
  • The researchers found that mercury levels in the brain associated with increased seafood consumption are not associated with increased brain problems (harm to the brain).
  • Researchers found that seafood consumption was associated with less Alzheimer’s disease and neuropathology, despite the increased mercury levels.
“Seafood consumption is promoted for its many health benefits even though it’s contaminated by mercury. Since mercury is a known neurotoxin, we wanted to determine whether seafood consumption is correlated with increased brain mercury levels in older adults, and also whether seafood consumption or brain mercury levels are correlated with brain neuropathologies.
- Martha Clare Morris, ScD, a Rush nutritional epidemiologist


The researchers found that seafood consumption was correlated significantly with less Alzheimer's disease pathology, including lower density of amyloid plaques in the brain and less severe and widespread tangles within the neurons.

The participants’ seafood intake was measured by multiple food frequency questionnaires completed in the years before their death. The level of seafood intake in the study population was moderate, so the findings cannot be generalized to populations with higher seafood consumption or to those with high mercury exposure.

Sources of information: Rush University, EurekaAlert

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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.

NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH/National Institute on Aging.

Citation - JAMA. 2016;315(5):489-497. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.19451