Fish consumption and cognitive decline with age in a large community study

Arch Neurol. 2005 Dec;62(12):1849-53. doi: 10.1001/archneur.62.12.noc50161. Epub 2005 Oct 10.


Background: Dietary intake of fish and the omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with lower risk of Alzheimer disease and stroke.

Objective: To examine whether intakes of fish and the omega-3 fatty acids protect against age-related cognitive decline.

Design: Prospective cohort study.

Setting: Geographically defined Chicago, Ill, community.

Participants: Residents, 65 years and older, who participated in the Chicago Health and Aging Project.

Main outcome measure: Change in a global cognitive score estimated from mixed models. The global score was computed by summing scores of 4 standardized tests. In-home cognitive assessments were performed 3 times over 6 years of follow-up.

Results: Cognitive scores declined on average at a rate of 0.04 standardized units per year (SU/y). Fish intake was associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline in mixed models adjusted for age, sex, race, education, cognitive activity, physical activity, alcohol consumption, and total energy intake. Compared with a decline rate in score of -0.100 SU/y among persons who consumed fish less than weekly, the rate was 10% slower (-0.090 SU/y) among persons who consumed 1 fish meal per week and 13% slower (-0.088 SU/y) among persons who consumed 2 or more fish meals per week. The fish association was not accounted for by cardiovascular-related conditions or fruit and vegetable consumption but was modified after adjustment for intakes of saturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fats. There was little evidence that the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids were associated with cognitive change.

Conclusions: Fish consumption may be associated with slower cognitive decline with age. Further study is needed to determine whether fat composition is the relevant dietary constituent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Chicago / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diet / trends
  • Eating / physiology
  • Educational Status
  • Energy Intake / physiology
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fish Products*
  • Fishes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Racial Groups
  • Sex Factors


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3