The brain health benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil—EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)—are many. In fact, I very recently blogged about a study that found low levels of omega-3s (and other nutrients) and higher levels of trans fats in association with brain shrinkage and poor memory and thinking in older adults.
Another study published in the same journal, Neurology, analyzed data from over 1500 people, and found that people with lower levels of EPA and DHA also had lower scores on tests of visual memory, executive function (includes problem solving and multi-tasking), and abstract thinking. Those with the lowest levels of DHA also had lower brain volumes as measured by MRI scans. These are subclinical markers of future dementia.
The lead researcher, Zaldy S. Tan, MD, MPH, stated, “People with lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids had lower brain volumes that were equivalent to about two years of structural brain aging. Lower red blood cell DHA levels are associated with smaller brain volumes and a ‘vascular’ pattern of cognitive impairment even in persons free of clinical dementia.”
DHA is an essential nutrient in the brain and retina (of the eye), required in high concentrations in these tissues for support of optimal mental performance and vision. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is sadly low in the omega-3s. It can be difficult to obtain enough omega-3 from diet alone, so consider a purified, concentrated fish oil supplement to optimize your levels of this beneficial nutrient.