If remembering your keys or appointments sometimes feels like you’re swimming upstream, you may just need a little fish oil.
Fish oils supply the body with beneficial fats known as omega-3s that are important to brain health and mood, yet many people lack them.
Omega-3s and omega-6s are known as essential fatty acids because the body can’t produce them and we must obtain them from food. Omega-3s are found in the oils of fish and flaxseed, omega-3 eggs, and various nuts and seeds.
In the typical Western diet, however, most people obtain 10 times more omega-6s than omega-3s due to increased use of vegetable oils rich in omega-6s.
Build the cells
In the body, omega-3s break down into more absorbable forms called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Many people, however, have difficulties with this conversion, particularly in the case of DHA.
Essential fats are important structural components of cell membranes. The fatty proponents of the brain’s gray matter contain a high proportion of omega-3s. DHA is also incorporated into the membranes of the retina and particular nerve cells.
For this reason, and because these fats are so vital to growth and development, some supplements contain DHA-enhanced fish oils for maximum benefit.
Feed the brain
One Norwegian study found that children born to mothers who had supplemented with fish oil during pregnancy and three months of lactation had higher scores on mental processing tests at four years of age.
Another trial found that two-year-old children born to mothers who had supplemented with fish oil during pregnancy had higher scores of hand/eye coordination compared to children whose mothers supplemented with olive oil.
Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids has improved behaviour and symptoms in hyperactive and autistic children, as well as 5- to 12-year olds with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Benefits for all ages
Toward the other end of the age spectrum, in adults aged 35 to 54, a recent study indicated that higher levels of DHA are associated with better performance on mental tests, mental flexibility, working memory, and vocabulary.
A high fish intake is also linked to decreased risk of impaired cognitive function and Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia. DHA also appears to be protective against dementia.
When it comes to brain health at any age, think “fish.” Choose a sustainably sourced, enhanced-DHA fish oil supplement for lifelong protection.