Omega 3 And Brain Health Archives

Low Omega 3 levels ages your brain faster.

We’ve said it before but there’s no harm in saying it again. There is a growing body of evidence linking increased intake of Omega 3 fatty acids, which are primarily DHA and EPA, to better brain health. Once again more evidence emerges.

For instance we’ve talked about the link between Omega 3 fats, commonly found in fish oil, and memory loss.

And we’ve talked about the effect of Omega 3 on your mood, cognitive ability, psychological problems such as depression, a reduced risk of dementia and even in helping reduce alcohol cravings.

Again, at the end of February 2012, more evidence emerges supporting the conclusion that low levels of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids DHA and EPA can have a negative effect on your brain health.

In a new study researchers examined 1575 people with an average age of 67 who were free of dementia, and in particular analysed the levels of DHA and EPA in their blood.Omega 3 and brain health

The subjects were given a range of tests to measure brain function and memory, including brain imaging and psychological assessments.

What was discovered was that participants in the study who had the lowest levels of Omega 3 had smaller brain volumes and a poorer cognitive performance. They performed poorer on tests measuring memory and thinking, and worse than those who exhibited a higher levels of Omega 3 in the blood.

In effect what they have found is that people with lower levels of Omega 3 in the blood seem to have a faster rate of brain ageing which translates into poorer cognitive performance and memory.

The specific conclusion of the study was that “Lower RBC DHA levels are associated with smaller brain volumes and a “vascular” pattern of cognitive impairment even in persons free of clinical dementia.”

The evidence mounts up of a link between Omega 3 and brain health, or conversely between low levels of Omega 3 intake and poorer brain health.

What is not entirely clear is how long you need to increase your Omega 3 intake before there is some positive effect on your brain health, and of course this is an important factor. The study did not examine this.

However whether or not you’re concerned about improving your brain health there are so many other powerful reasons for including more Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet. Improved brain health may simply be one of them, there are so many others.

Whether you want to reduce your risk of macular degeneration as you get older, reduce your risk of dying from heart attack, help improve your likely outcome from arthritis treatment, help reduce symptoms of depression, improve your skin or have a better outcome in any one of a wide range of health conditions, (which you can see listed on the right for your reading) it seems there are powerful reasons to increase the amount of Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet.

Of course you can do so by eating more fish, though more people choose simply to take Omega 3 supplements for a number of reasons. And if you want you can find out more about how we have determined which Omega 3 supplements to take for ourselves in our article about finding the best Omega 3 supplements.

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More DHA may help improve mental function  and reduce alcoholism

Is there any link between Omega 3, brain cells and alcohol? How in the world could those 3 seemingly disparate things have any connection?

Well surprising as it may sound they do have a connection, according to recent studies.

The first connection is between Omega 3 and brain cells. It is now well understood that a large proportion of your brain is made up of fat and a large proportion of that fat is DHA, one of the most important of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids.

And research has shown that increasing your intake of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids may have a beneficial effect on a range of mental functions including cognitive ability and memory as well is psychiatric problems such as depression and others.

However new research is now showing a link between Omega 3, alcohol and your brain.

A new study at the Indiana University School of medicine as suggested that as well as having a positive effect on your mood, increasing your intake of the Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil may also have an effect on alcohol cravings.

In this study researchers were able to show that increasing the intake of Omega 3 fatty acids, specifically DHA, changed the behaviour of mice.

These were mice already suffered from bipolar disorder, a psychiatric condition. The mice were given a diet high in Omega 3 fatty acids, specifically DHA, to see what effect this may have on their mental state including on the bipolar disorder as well as depression, and to see what molecular changes may occur in the brain of the mice that may account for any changes observed.Omega 3 and alcoholism

And the result of the study was a correlation between molecular changes in the brain of the mice and an improvement in their mental condition.

The conclusion was that “The mice that were given DHA normalized their behavior, ….were not depressed and when subjected to stress, they do not become manic”.

But what does any of this have to do with alcohol? Just this.

The bipolar mice had a particular liking for alcohol. However an unexpected outcome from the research was that the mice that were given the DHA and which had previously had a liking for alcohol demonstrated a reduced desire for alcohol.

In other words a suggested conclusion of the study, one not initially expected, was that increasing the intake of DHA in the diet, as well as having a certain effect on the psychiatric condition of the mice, also resulted in them drinking less.

Of course it’s very difficult to extrapolate from a study on mice either that increasing your intake of DHA will help reduce bipolar disorder or depression, though there are now other studies confirming this outcome.

And it is very difficult also to extrapolate from a study on mice that increasing your intake of DHA may also help reduce alcoholism. There is currently little other evidence to that effect.

And as was observed in the study more work needs to be done.

It may be that alcoholism has a specific mental basis, and just as increasing the intake of DHA may well help reduce the risk of other mental disorders such as bipolar and depression, increasing the intake of DHA can have a similar effect with the mental condition leading to alcoholism.

This of course is speculation and further studies will be required to determine whether this is the case. However it is certainly an extremely interesting outcome from the study and warrants further research.

And there is one other link between alcohol and the Omega 3 fats. Studies have also shown that increasing the intake of alcohol to a moderate level may well also be associated with higher levels of the Omega3 fats in plasma and red blood cells. A study in 3 countries, England, Belgium and Italy has found that moderate alcohol consumption may well boost the amount of Omega 3 fats in our system, or least any count of them.

Remember however that alcohol is dangerous, particularly if you consume it in higher amounts, and this is not a recipe for drinking more. However “moderate” consumption may offer some benefits.

It’s not entirely clear why this is the case.

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Clear links are now shown between more fish oil and memory improvement.

The benefits of Omega 3 fats found in fish oil just go on and on. Evidence is now clear that there is a strong link between increased intake of fish oil and memory loss, or at least the reversal of memory loss.

And as well as improving memory, there is also evidence that taking more Omega 3 for brain development in infants is very important, and that more fish oil can also help us to improve our learning ability.

The range of brain related improvements from taking fish oil supplements is impressive. Researchers are now saying that taking Omega 3 for brain improvement includes reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

A recent study showed that taking Omega 3 fish oil supplements for 6 months can improve our chances in each of these areas.  485 healthy people were tested using fish oil supplements, and the results showed improvements in age related memory loss,  and increased learning ability that was “almost double the reduction in errors on a test that measures learning and memory performance”.Fish Oil and Memory Loss

So now it seems clear that along with a whole host of other benefits, Omega 3 memory supplements are well worth taking. Of course they aren’t memory supplements, they’re fish oil, but fish oil in your diet may well reduce the age related memory loss we all seem to suffer over time.

The active component identified in the study was DHA, a fatty acid that makes up the majority of the fats in our brains. DHA is found in the fish oil, and if you take the best fish oil supplements you ought to be getting plenty of DHA every day.

How do you find the best fish oil supplements? It’s not an easy process to do, you need to consider a wide range of factors like the source of the fish oil, in other words what fish are used and the purification process used to remove dangerous contaminants like mercury and heavy metals, and the amount of DHA found in each capsule.

All fish oil capsules are NOT the same. Read the rest of this entry

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Keep Omega 3 fats in your diet to aid fetal development.

DHA is an essential fatty acid found right through your body, and in particular your brain. And it has been discovered that DHA is very important in brain development, as well as other aspects of fetal development. DHA is also a major fatty acid found in the retina of the eye, as well as other organs of the body.

Importantly it is also found in breast milk.

Now babies cannot produce their own DHA, so they get it from their mother. They get it through the placenta before they are born and from the breast milk after. For this reason a mother is constantly losing some of her supplies of DHA to her baby.

For this reason many experts recommend an Omega 3 supplement to mothers to be and breast feeding mothers. Both to supplement the DHA that baby is getting, and to maintain their own supplies. There are other supplements also recommended for pregnant or nursing mothers, like folic acid, but Omega 3 fats high in DHA are now on the list.Omega 3 And Fetal Brain Development

Both for fetal brain and eye development, and other aspects of fetal development.

A study published in The Lancet in 2007, where 11,000 women were tested for the effects of low levels of consumption of seafood, specifically less than 340 grams, tested for the effects of low levels of seafood intake and childhood development.

The children of the women involved in the study were tested from the age of 6 months right up to the age of 8.

And it was found that low levels of seafood intake during pregnancy had children who exhibited lower levels of IQ than those with high levels of seafood intake during pregnancy.

Not only that it was also demonstrated that children of women with lower levels of seafood intake had other problems such as poorer communication skills and poorer fine motor skills as well is some social behavioural issues.

Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2007 studied the effects of DHA supplementation on pregnant women. The supplementation was achieved by way of cereal bars supplemented with DHA. Supplementation began at 24 weeks right through until delivery.

And it was also found in this study that infants of women who had supplemented their diet with DHA during pregnancy did better on solving problems than the incidence whose mothers did not receive the DHA.

Of course there is plenty more research required in this area, but it seems that there is a growing body of evidence that taking fish oil, and specifically DHA, during pregnancy may well give your infant a good head start in life.

Recommendations for how much DHA should be consumed by pregnant and nursing mothers vary, but are around 200 to 300 mg per day. With our modern diet it is unlikely that we get enough DHA in our diets.

Remember, before taking any form of supplements, whether you’re pregnant or not, consult your doctor first.

DHA is found primarily in fish oils, along with other essential Omega 3 faty acids like EPA. However some experts are wary of suggesting that pregnant or nursing mothers should be taking fish oil supplements.

They’re wary because fish can accumulate sea born toxins in their system, like PCBs and mercury. The further up the food chain the fish is the higher the concentration of nasty toxins that you don’t want to be eating.

For this reason though the very best Omega 3 supplements go to extreme lengths to make sure that they are completely free of any contaminants.

There are very strict international standards for the levels of contamination accepted in Omega 3 supplements. The very best Omega 3 supplements are free of any form of chemical contamination, because they use a fish that is found in the cleanest part of the worlds oceans, they process the fish in a particular way then they decontaminate to an extreme degree.

There now seems to be little doubt that mothers and pregnant women ought to be taking the best Omega 3 supplements high in DHA, for both their own health and the health and development of their babies.

Along with other supplements, like folic acid, it is now something that doctors, mothers and pregnant women ought to pay a lot of attention to.

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