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How omega-3-fats benefit the brain and mind

Home » Featured » How omega-3-fats benefit the brain and mind

Omega-3-fats and Fish oil Supplements are mentioned often these days, but few understand what they are and why we may need them.

They often are mentioned in the context of inflammation, but few understand what they are and how to reap the many possible benefits of omega-3s.

Low omega-3 levels are associated with a multitude of health issues such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, eye disease, depression, ADHD and much more.

Much has been written about the benefits of omega-3s for heart health, but their benefits for brain health and mental health are less well known.

What Are Omega-3-Fats?

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods, such as fish and flaxseed, and  dietary supplements, such as krill oil and fish oil.

The three main omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

These fatty acids are major building blocks for membranes, cell structures that are vital for all our cells to function – and are crucial for our cell membranes to perform at their best.

EPA and DHA, the omega–3 essential fatty acids in fish oil, are particularly concentrated in the brain. It is composed of nearly 60% fat—and the nervous system, where they provide necessary building blocks for healthy cells and tissue.

DHA, for example, constitutes 20% of the total fatty acids in the cerebral cortex, the outermost layer of the brain responsible for sophisticated information processing like memory and attention.

Our nerve cells, and especially the connections that they make (the synapses) need to be rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Think of omega-3s as high-quality motor oil for the finely-tuned engine that is your brain.

Why Do We Need Extra Omega-3-Fats?

Our usual diet in North America is high in processed and fast foods as well as in vegetable oils. These foods contain too much omega 6-fatty acids relative to omega-3-fats and other fats.

We need both kinds of fats for our body to function. But it is less known that it is the ratio of omega 3- to omega-6- fats that is critically important to predicting our future health.

This omega-3 ratio or Omega-3 Index is actually two things. Most important, it is a risk factor for heart disease, just like cholesterol, and many other diseases, even for memory issues, Alzheimer’s dementia and general healthy aging and longevity.

But it is also an actual test you can take to assess your omega-3 status.

The hypothesis of the Omega-3 Index as a risk factor for heart disease was first put forth in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by Dr. Bill Harris, who co-invented the Omega-3 Index test.

He talked about the benefits of Omega-3-Fats for brain health in a recent interview with the author

Benefits of Omega-3-Fats for Brain Health and Mental Health

There is a rapidly-growing body of clinical research on EPA and DHA in fish oils that indicates how important they are to the brain’s blood flow, its overall information processing capabilities, and your memory. This also includes other cognitive functions such as mood, the brain’s “executive functioning” to make good decisions, and a calm and controlled demeanour.

Omega-3 EPA and DHA are vital nutritional support for the healthy early development, maturation, and optimal functioning of the brain, heart and circulation, and all the body’s other organs.

Omega 3 EPA and DHA are important to the optimal function of your brain and here’s why: DHA makes up a large portion of the gray matter of the brain.

A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that EPA- and DHA-rich fish oil helps elevate mood.

A tremendous amount of scientific evidence points to a connection between the consumption of fish that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, healthy and cognitive function.

A Danish team of researchers compared the diets of 5,386 healthy older individuals and found that the more fish in a person’s diet, the more likely were these individuals to maintain high-performance memory into old age and even to reduce the likelihood of Alzheimer’s dementia.

The research-backed benefits of omega-3 fats for brain health (fish oil) include:

  • Supports healthy brain function
    • Promotes positive mood and well-being
    • Supports memory and learning ability
    • Supports focus and attention
    • May help slow the progression of age-related memory loss
    • Protects nerve and brain cells from oxidative stress and damage
    • Is natural and safe for long-term use

Can You get Omega-3s from Your Food?

Yes. You absolutely can. Foods high in beneficial omega-3 fats and proven beneficial for brain health are cold water fatty fish like

  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Anchovies
  • Phytoplankton
  • Flaxseeds
  • Chia Seeds

If you are not sure if you are getting enough, maybe you want to consider taking an omega-3-index-test to optimize your brain health.

Nutritional supplements, like fish oil, krill oil or phytoplankton preparations can be beneficial for some.

I generally advocate taking supplements as part of a “nutrient orchestra” which means that your nutritional intake has to be balanced with the right chemical form of supplements and in the correct dose to be beneficial in the long-term.

Nutritional supplements can have side effects, so make sure to consult with your doctor, pharmacist or other health care provider before you start.

In summary, omega-3 fats can be very beneficial for brain health and mental health. They should be an important part of your diet, and, together with a healthy lifestyle overall, can contribute to keeping your brain young and healthy at any age.

About the Author:

Dr. Christine Sauer MD ND is a retired physician and naturopath as well as a Certified Brain and Mental Health Professional (on the Teaching Team of Dr. Daniel Amen MD), a Licensed Neuroencoding Specialist (Dr. Joseph McClendon III), Havening Techniques® Practitioner and a “Mental Health Thriver”, a multiple bestselling author and engaging speaker. She is working as a Holistic Mental Health & Brain Health Trainer, Coach and Educator and is specializing in helping people to “sparkle” (to live their best life) – and to overcome depression and anxiety by using a combination of knowledge, science, nature, experience, fun, art, and love.

Website: https://DocChristine.com

Facebook Group “Sparkles-Mental Health & Brain Health Support”:https://www.facebook.com/groups/sparklesformentalhealth

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/drchristinesauer/

Discover more: Check out this article on the key to happiness.

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