seafood

  1. Nothing fishy about it: Seafood will boost your brainpower

    "Fish is brain food" is the kind of age-old folk wisdom that's been proven time and again by cutting-edge science -- and the latest research confirms that the best way to keep your brain swimming in gray matter is with a steady diet of fish.

    I mean that literally: Seniors who eat fish at least once a week have more of that critical gray matter, giving them a lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

    The biggest boost is in the frontal and temporal lobes -- specifically the areas most closely linked to memory and learning, or exactly where you want your extra gray matter to be.

    And if you think the benefits inside the brain are impressive, you should see how that translates out in the real world: Just 3.2 percent of the fish-eaters developed cognitive decline over five years, versus 30.8 percent of those who ate little to no fish, according to data presented at a Radiological Society of North America meeting.

    If there's one area where the researchers found no benefit, it was in fried fish -- and I have to wonder if it's because of the frying... or because of the oils people tend to fry things in.

    Most people don't fry their foods -- fish or otherwise -- in healthy oils. They fry them in the unhealthiest polyunsaturated oils of all, including blended vegetable oils, soybean oil and safflower oil.

    Try a healthier oil -- like peanut oil -- and all your fried foods will get a health boost (and taste better, too).

    But let's get back to seafood, cooked however you like -- because a diet rich in fatty fish will do so much more than protect your brain. Fatty fish can help prevent heart disease, protect your vision, beat depression and even improve your gums.

    Yet despite all those benefits, some simply won't eat fish to save their lives. Maybe it's the smell... the taste... the texture... or all three.

    Whatever the reason, you don't have to actually eat any fish at all to get the benefits -- because almost all of those benefits come from the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, which you can find almost anywhere as a supplement.

    Shop around before you commit to one -- some brands will leave you with the "fish burps," which is a little counterproductive if you're taking pills to avoid the taste of fish in the first place.

    Buy smaller sizes or sample packs first -- it might take a little trial-and-burping, but eventually, you'll find one that works for you.

  2. The real secret to saving your eyes

    At some point in the next month, the feds are expected to approve a new drug to help treat macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in seniors.

    And if the $2,000-a-pop price tag doesn't cause your eyes to pop right out of your head, maybe this will: The drug, called Eylea, is injected directly into the eyeball.

    YOUCH!

    Sure, it's done with some anesthesia -- but there's the potential for serious pain once it wears off, along with the possibility of increased pressure in the eyeball, and hemorrhaging in the white.

    Might be a great look for Halloween... but probably not ideal for the other 364 days of the year.

    The cost and side effects are right in line with the other major treatment for macular degeneration, a drug called Lucentis. The only difference is that Lucentis is injected monthly, while Eylea can be done every other month.

    But what if you didn't have to deal with the needles, side effects, cost or -- more importantly -- the macular degeneration itself?

    It might be a lot easier than you think -- and it starts with eating a little more seafood.

    Dutch researchers examined data on 2,167 volunteers aged 55 or older and found that those with certain gene variations linked to macular degeneration were able to lower their risk by boosting their intake of omega-3 fatty acids and zinc.

    One variation, CFH, can boost the risk of macular degeneration by 11 times -- but the researchers found that some seniors were able to beat those odds by getting higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA as well as zinc, beta-carotene, and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.

    Another gene variation, called LOC387715S, is known to increase the risk of macular degeneration by 15 times -- but researchers say seniors who had higher levels of zinc, EPA and DHA were more likely to avoid the disease than those who had lower levels.

    The best sources of EPA and DHA, of course, are the fatty fish that should be a steady part of your diet anyway. But zinc's a little tougher to come by: Oysters are loaded with it, but a steady shellfish diet can get pricey.

    Add a supplement instead -- especially if you already know you may be predisposed to macular degeneration.

    P.S. For more on the connection between fish oil and eye health, read "Fish is 'see' food." And for a promising but yet-unproven treatment for macular degeneration, read "Flowers for your eyes."

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