OBJECTIVE: To investigate the association between fish consumption and subclinical brain abnormalities.

METHODS: In the population-based Cardiovascular Health Study, 3,660 participants age > or =65 underwent an MRI scan in 1992-1994. Five years later, 2,313 were scanned. Neuroradiologists assessed MRI scans in a standardized and blinded manner. Food frequency questionnaires were used to assess dietary intakes. Participants with known cerebrovascular disease were excluded from the analyses.

RESULTS: After adjustment for multiple risk factors, the risk of having one or more prevalent subclinical infarcts was lower among those consuming tuna/other fish > or =3 times/week, compared to <1/month (relative risk 0.74, 95% CI = 0.54-1.01, p = 0.06, p trend = 0.03). Tuna/other fish consumption was also associated with trends toward lower incidence of subclinical infarcts. Additionally, tuna/other fish intake was associated with better white matter grade, but not with sulcal and ventricular grades, markers of brain atrophy. No significant associations were found between fried fish consumption and any subclinical brain abnormalities.

CONCLUSIONS: Among older adults, modest consumption of tuna/other fish, but not fried fish, was associated with lower prevalence of subclinical infarcts and white matter abnormalities on MRI examinations. Our results add to prior evidence that suggest that dietary intake of fish with higher eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid content, and not fried fish intake, may have clinically important health benefits.