Scientists reel in secrets of fish oil
Linked to better memory and muscle strength
By Jonathan Leake, The Ottawa CitizenSeptember 14, 2012 12:01 PM
Scientists may have worked out whether fish oils really do protect memory, boost muscle strength and aid recovery from heart attacks — and if so, how they do it.
A study by Aberdeen University, published last week, showed that regular exercise and doses of fish oil could ward off natural muscle wastage in people over 40, who typically lose 0.5 per cent to 2 per cent of muscle strength each year.In the study two groups of women in their late sixties went regularly to the gym. One group, which took fish oil as a dietary supplement, boosted muscle strength by 20 per cent; for the group going without the figure was 11 per cent.
Another study, published in the journal Biology of Sport, could help explain that effect. Researchers at Paraiba Federal University in Brazil found that soldiers who took fish oils while undergoing intensive physical training suffered far less muscle inflammation. The same effect could be at work in the brain.
In a third study, at the Rhode Island hospital’s Alzheimer’s disease and memory disorders centre, scientists found a strong link between fish oil and cognitive function in older people.
The investigation followed 819 elderly volunteers for three years, 117 of whom took fish oil and all of whom were given MRI brain scans. An association was apparent between fish oil supplements and increased brain volume.
One idea is that the oils reduced the inflammation often found in elderly brains.
Lori Daiello, an assistant professor of neurology at Brown University, Rhode Island, who led the research, said: “We found a significant positive association between fish oil supplement use and average brain volumes in two critical areas utilized in memory and thinking. In other words, fish oil use was associated with less brain shrinkage.”
A separate Canadian study published recently found that when rats were fed fish oil it accumulated in their brains and promoted better communication between cells.
However, a recent report from the Marine Conservation Society predicted a shortage of fish oil possibly within two to three years, and recommended that manufacturers look to plants for a substitute.
The Times, London
©Times Newspapers Ltd. 2012
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