Archive for April, 2011

Aging and memory loss needn’t necessarily go together

Getting older and losing your memory seem to go together. It seems a given that as you get older your memory will get poorer, that the effects of ageing on memory are just a part of life.

However that may not necessarily be the case. Aging and memory loss may not go together at all, not if you make some efforts to limit the effects of ageing on memory.

In fact there’s a range of things that you can do to help improve your memory, including a range of exercises. However, as our website is primarily intended to discuss the positive effects of fish oil supplementation, we shall not be going into memory exercises here. Rather we shall be discussing ways to improve memory through the use of appropriate nutrition and supplementation, and specifically using quality fish oil supplements.

The reason we discuss that today is that earlier this month at the American Academy of Neurology’s meeting in Honolulu a presentation discussed the results of research done at the University of California, San Francisco, on the effects of inflammation on memory loss in older people.Aging and memory loss

Gradually science is beginning to suspect that inflammation is at the root of a wide range of health complaints. It would seem that the ability of your body to become inflamed is a significant cause of a wider range of health conditions than many researchers suspected in the past. Not only that but research is also indicating that what you eat has a big bearing on the level of inflammation produced in your body.

The presentation in Honolulu, by a clinical professor of neuropsychology from UCSF, identified that higher levels of inflammation in older people equated with poorer memory. In other words aging itself doesn’t cause memory loss, it is some of the physiological processes associated with aging that can do this, and to an extent this can be reversed.

76 men and women with an average age over 70 were tested for signs of inflammation and also tested for their ability to recall words. They were also tested for various signs of inflammation in the brain. Those with more inflammation demonstrated poorer memory.

It is well known that one of the most significant benefits of increasing the amount of DHA and EPA in your diet is a reduction in inflammation. DHA and EPA are the 2 most important of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids, and DHA makes up a significant portion of your brain. Eating more fish, or taking fish oil supplements containing high levels of DHA and EPA will help improve the levels of these 2 essential fatty acids in your diet. They are powerful anti-inflammatories.

Research has clearly demonstrated that over the last century our intake of these essential fats has declined dramatically due to a reduction in the amount of fish in our diet. Memory loss may well be a consequence of this.

Of course aging and memory loss do go together to some extent. Inflammation to the point where it causes loss of memory and other cognitive decline is itself a physiological process which increases with age.

And of course there is also a wide range of other factors which can impact on cognitive ability and memory, excess alcohol consumption being one of the most well-known.

However the results of this study would suggest that taking fish oil supplements, or eating more oily fish high in Omega 3, may well help protect you against age-related memory loss to some extent, when combined with other commonsense steps, because of the powerful anti-inflammatory properties of the essential fatty acids.

And of course reducing loss of memory is only one of the many health benefits of increasing your intake of DHA and EPA. We have discussed many of these health benefits on our website and you can read these using the categories listed on the right.

Whilst aging is impossible to prevent, memory loss may not be. If you’re concerned about loss of memory you should always consult your doctor first, but there are also some other prudent steps that you can take to help limit the risks of cognitive decline with age. Keeping up a good intake of the Omega 3 fats is one of these.

Other steps can include paying more attention to your diet, and whilst we don’t intend to canvas the subject of general diet and memory loss you can find some more good information on other websites about diet and memory loss.

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The development of baby vision is one of the most important aspects of growing up

There is little doubt that the essential fatty acids known as the Omega 3 fatty acids, and in particular DHA, are important for vision. DHA is a significant component of the retinal rods in the eye, and research is showing that providing adequate DHA in the diet is important for both the development of baby vision as well as for protecting against macular degeneration amongst the older generation.

In the early years, and in particular from birth to the age of 3, the development of the eye and therefore of vision undergoes huge changes. In that period of 3 years the size of the eye in an infant increases to 3 times what it was at birth. By the age of 3 retinal tissue, or in other words tissue that makes the eye function, is mature. And the development of vision which includes of course other factors such as eye hand coordination, continues as the infant gets older. The development of baby vision is, of course, essential to all facets of life.

Part of the structure of the eye includes what are known as retinal rods. These contain very high levels of DHA with parts of these rods having more DHA content than any other cell in the body.Improving baby vision

If the infant receives sufficient quantities of DHA throughout his or her early developmental years vision will develop properly, however if there is a deficiency in the amount of DHA in the diet this will result in these infants requiring a greater amount of light stimulation to achieve the same level of visual response as those who have had an adequate supply of DHA.

For some time it has been known that breastfed infants have better developed visual functions in early life compared to those who are fed formula. Provided the mother is receiving sufficient DHA in her diet, and in fact sufficient Omega 3 fatty acids in general, these will come through to the infant through the breastmilk. However to date many infant formulas have not contained the essential fatty acids, and in particular DHA, and as a result formula-fed infants did not receive the same amount of DHA as those who were breastfed.

Studies have shown that breastfed infants had better visual accuity in the first few months of life and better retinal development than those who were formula-fed.

The human body is unable to manufacture the Omega 3 essential fatty acids on its own, and relies on diet for its supply of these important fats.

These results have now been confirmed by the European Parliament. The European Parliament has now allowed infant formulas to include claims about the benefits of DHA on infant visual development, where these products are DHA fortified.

This is a solid recognition of the science behind the conclusions above, namely that a low level of intake of DHA during the early months and years can lead to deficiencies in visual development.

This was not an easy vote, and there was opposition from many sides. One of the obvious objections to making claims about the health benefits of formula is that it may lead parents to believe that infant formula is as good as breastmilk.

There seems little doubt that any mother, where able, should be breastfeeding her infant rather than using formula. Mothers milk is always best.

However there are always mothers who for various reasons are unable to breast feed, and in these cases using infant formulas containing DHA is much better than using a formula which does not.

The development of infant vision is only one reason for ensuring that the baby or infant receives a sufficient supply of the essential fatty acids known as the Omega 3 fats, and in particular DHA. There’s a wide range of other infant developmental reasons why DHA supply is crucial to the baby and infant. These include development of the brain, which we have talked about in another article about Omega 3 fats and children.

The development of your baby’s vision is one of the most important aspects of infant development, and not to be underestimated. The development of vision in the first few years of life is crucial to so many other aspects of life in the later years. From birth to 3 years of age your baby’s vision undergoes enormous changes, and it’s proper development relies on the mother providing the baby with sufficient essential nutrients, and in particular DHA.

So how do you ensure that your baby’s vision develops to its best? How do you make sure your baby is getting sufficient DHA in his or her diet?

The best way to do this is by ensuring that the breastfeeding mother has a sufficient supply of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids in her diet, and passes these on to her baby through her milk. Breastfeeding is still the healthiest way to feed your baby, and far superior to formula, whether DHA fortified or not.

This can be achieved by eating fish, or by taking fish oil supplements, to ensure an adequate supply of the Omega 3 fats for herself. These will then be passed to her baby in adequate amounts. Taking Omega 3 capsules will also ensure that the mother has sufficient essential fatty acids for her own good health as well as the health and development of her baby.

It’s important however, particularly for pregnant women who intend to eat fish to increase their Omega 3 intake, to research the type of fish you eat, as different types of fish can be contaminated with varying levels of Mercury. It may well be worth discussing this with your doctor.

To read more about the importance of DHA in baby vision development click here, and to read more about the vote of the European Parliament allowing claims about DHA and infant vision on formula click here.

 

 

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Omega 3 eggs aren’t cheap, but are they good value?

Just about everything you eat now seems to be fortified with the Omega 3 essential fatty acids. And of course as we have pointed out many times on this website the Omega 3 essential fatty acids are very good for your health, so what’s wrong with that?

Well of course as with all these things it’s important to dig a little deeper before you accept something on face value. So let’s dig a little deeper into Omega 3 eggs.

We should begin by saying that eggs are not normally devoid of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids. In fact eggs should have plenty of Omega 3 fats in them. However the operative word there is “should”.

Unfortunately the average egg that you buy in the supermarket now has very little of the Omega 3 fats. There is a very specific reason for that, it’s modern farming practices.

You see the Omega 3 fats found in eggs used to come from grass. The chickens ate the grass and the Omega 3 went into their system and ended up in the eggs.

That’s exactly how you get the Omega 3 essential fatty acids in fish. Fish at the bottom of the food chain eat seagrass, which is also high in the Omega 3 fats. Therefore they take Omega 3 fatty acids into their system and their oil is correspondingly high in fatty acids.
The value of omega 3 fortified eggs
And those Omega 3 fats work their way up the food chain as bigger fish eat smaller fish.

In the past we used to get our eggs from chickens which free ranged. They used to have a wide range of food sources, including all sorts of insects, and grass.

Yes believe it or not chickens eat grass. In fact the authors of this website have their own chickens, and are constantly amazed at how much grass they eat.

But modern chickens are not allowed to free range, or if they are it is usually rare that there is grass available to eat. More commonly they are fed chicken pellets or grains or soy products. These are not high in the Omega 3 fats.

And since the fatty acids come from their diet if there are none in their diet they don’t get any in their system, and if there is none in their system there will be none in their eggs.

That would seem to be an argument for eating Omega 3 fortified eggs. Lets see.

Of course the first thing to note is that Omega 3 eggs are more expensive than regular eggs.

But surely if you’re getting your Omega 3’s in the eggs the extra cost is worthwhile? Not necessarily.

You see not all of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids are created equal. DHA and EPA are the most important of the Omega 3 fats for your health. These are the ones which are found in fish oil and which used to be found in chicken and eggs, before modern farming practices changed.

However there is another type of Omega 3 fat called ALA. ALA is a precursor to DHA and EPA, meaning that it is converted in your body to DHA and EPA. And there’s a problem with that.

The problem is not that it is converted, the problem is how well it’s converted. It is generally recognized that it takes a large amount of ALA to convert into a very small amount of DHA and EPA. Estimates are that as little as under 1 percent of ALA is converted into more useful DHA and EPA.

ALA is cheaper than DHA and EPA, and therefore that is the fatty acid most commonly found in Omega 3 fortified eggs. So in effect you’re getting very little of the Omega 3 fats, certainly not enough to justify the cost, in fact you’d be much better if you spent your money on Omega 3 supplements which are filled with DHA and EPA, not ALA.

And the same applies to many other Omega 3 fortified foods, read the label and you’ll find that in almost all cases the Omega 3 fat in the food is ALA.

So why do they bother fortifying the eggs, or the other foods? It’s marketing silly, it’s all about selling more eggs.

It’s very difficult, though not impossible, to find eggs fortified with DHA and EPA, if you do then you’re getting much better value, though in our view it’s still much better value again to buy fish oil supplements and avoid paying a lot more for your eggs, or for any other Omega 3 fortified foods.

Best of all, get some chickens of your own, allow them to free range around the garden eating grass and bugs and you’ll have your own eggs high in Omega 3.

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