Omega 3 Fatty Acids have a vital role to play in keeping your brain healthy. They are essential for nerve cells and brain cells to communicate and translate information into action elsewhere in our body.
EPA and DHA - 2 types of essential fatty acids-are the powerhouse behind the benefits of omega 3. DHA in particular is a key player in the formation and connection of brain cells
EPA has the job of being involved in production of healthy inflammatory responses as well as being a key part of nerve cell creation.
As we get older, our bodies become less good at using EPA and DHA so it is particularly important to keep an eye on our intake of omega 3 at all ages.
We don't make our own omega 3, we have to consume it - fish, walnuts, chia seeds and garlic are all good natural sources. It can be hard to eat enough though, especially as we get older and our body is less efficient at using omega 3 so good quality omega 3 supplements can help with our intake.
In contrast, there is rarely a shortage of omega 6 found in our food as they are a key ingredient in our modern food cupboards. Cereal, fast food, meat, processed foods and dairy products are sources of omega 6. Whilst there is little evidence that too much omega 6 can be harmful, the key is the balance of this in relation to the brain healthy omega 3. High levels of omega 6 have been shown to have a role in less healthy inflammation which is not good news for overall health.
Omega 9 is produced by our own bodies and can also be found in olive oil, nuts and seeds.
As we make our own omega 9 and we consume omega 6 in high quantities by the nature of modern diet, omega 3 is often the omega that we need more of.
Omega 3 and Brain Health
From ADHD in children, to depression in adults and progression of dementia, omega 3 is continuing to be evaluated for how its role in brain health may be explained further.
A recent study suggested that supplementing with an omega 3 supplement rich in DHA produces similar improvements in brain function to exercise in older women. Specifically, verbal memory ( such as recalling information on a list) and executive function ( how we manage and process and act on information ) seemed to be improved by those taking the supplement versus those who were not.
What’s the verdict?
As with many things in nutrition, little is clear cut but Omega 3 is the Omega we need to focus on with regard to looking after our brain health and keeping up with our other omegas.
Keep well, Dr Clara Russell