Fish Oil And Brain Health
Fish Oil And Brain Health — Food For Thought!
Fish really is brain food. And the oil in fatty fish contains concentrated amounts of the essential ingredient which benefits your brain.
In this article, I will explain what component of fish oil makes it critical for brain health and how that component affects both brain development and brain function.
That’s right. Fish oil is “food for thought.”
Fish Oil Contains DHA And EPA Fatty Acids And Both Are Critical For Your Brain Health
Just like a machine, your brain needs oil to function. Not motor oil, of course, but fish oil. Or at least a nutrient which is a major component of fish oil.
Fish oil contains high concentrations of Omega 3 fatty acids. More specifically, fish oil contains the two primary “long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids,” EPA (Eicosopentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid).
DHA and EPA (especially DHA) are building blocks, which means that they are part of the cell membranes throughout your body. (All of them, estimated to be between 50 million and 100 trillion!) However, DHA and EPA are found in highest concentration in the retina, brain, and sperm.
Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial because they provide fluidity to cell membranes and improve communication between brain cells. That is, Omega 3s are believed to benefit the neuro-transmitters that carry messages from one part of the brain to another and to other parts of the body. Low levels of Omega 3 impair these “Pony Express riders” and keep the signals from getting through, resulting in various medical problems.
Omega 3s Are Critical For Brain Development
For a fetus’ brain to develop properly, it needs a great deal of DHA and EPA fats, particularly DHA.
To develop properly, the fetus’ brain needs polyunsaturated fats, especially the long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, EPA and DHA.
Omega 3s are also critical for fetal vision development.
Having sufficient Omega 3s are most important during the last 3 months of fetal development, when the fetal brain grows threefold.
After birth, Omega 3 continues to be particularly critical for the infant’s brain development during the first several months of life.
Omega 3s Are Critical For Brain Function
Deficiencies in Omega-3 fats have been linked to:
- Mood Swings
- Bipolar Disorder
- Postpartum Depression
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- And others
Research has shown that patients suffering from these disabilities have abnormally low levels of Omega 3s in their blood.
Let’s look in more detail at some of these brain functioning problems and how they are affected by Omega 3s.
Studies have shown that people with depression often have low levels of the EPA and DHA and that depression decreases as levels of Omega-3 increase. More Omega 3 = less depression.
A 2009 report published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that adding fish oil supplements to standard care appears to benefit people with major depression.
In another 2009 research study, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, investigators reviewed 28 studies and found that use of fish oil supplements was linked to significant improvement in major depression (and bipolar disorder).
A Canadian study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry is the largest double-blind, randomized control trial ever conducted on Omega 3 and depression. The researchers found that the men and women who had depression without an anxiety disorder showed a statistically significant benefit from fish oil supplements.
A more recent study, published in the February 2011 issue of European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, concluded that there was a significant reduction in the symptoms of depression by participants who took daily Omega-3 supplements over a period of six months.
Another study involved evaluating Finnish men and women for depression (and suicidal tendencies). The researchers concluded from their study that the individuals who consumed fish at least twice a week had a 35 percent lower risk of being depressed (and a 43 percent lower risk of having suicidal tendencies).
The results of the Finnish study were consistent with still another larger study, conducted in Japan, that followed 265,000 subjects for up to 17 years. This study connected a decreased risk of suicide with the daily consumption of DHA-laden fish.
As you see, the connection between fish oil and brain health is clear where depression is concerned.
In one study, researchers gave magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests to study participants who recorded everything they ate during the test period.
The study concluded that the more DHA a person consumed, the more gray matter there was in three areas of the brain linked to mood: the amygdala, the hippocampus and the cingulate.
In 2006 the Omega-3 Fatty Acids Subcommittee, assembled by the Committee on Research on Psychiatric Treatments of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) stated the following: “The preponderance of epidemiologic and tissue compositional studies supports a protective effect of omega-3 EFA intake, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), in mood disorders.”
Although study results are inconsistent, taking fish oil along with the usual treatments for bipolar disorder seems to improve symptoms of depression and increase the length of time between episodes of depression. (However, there appear to be no fish oil health benefits on the manic symptoms of people with bipolar disorder.)
Preliminary clinical evidence suggests that people with schizophrenia may have an improvement in symptoms when given Omega-3 fatty acids.
There are also studies showing that proper intake of these essential fats may help ward off postpartum depression.
Scientists at Tufts University have discovered that patients with Alzheimer’s have a lower blood plasma level of DHA.
By analyzing the blood samples of a group of 899 men who were free of dementia at the beginning of the study, researchers were able to show that those with higher levels of DHA in their blood had a 47% lower chance of developing dementia, and a 39% lower chance of developing Alzheimer’s Disease, as compared with patients with lower levels.
In another study, researchers at the Kaolinska Institute in Stockholm discovered that supplementing patients with a DHA-rich fish oil capsule slows down the progression of mild Alzheimer’s disease.
Other studies have shown that even if you don’t have any of these conditions, memory and focus can improve with consistent use of fish oil supplements. Research has even shown that people who eat oily fish or take fish oil supplements score higher in IQ tests!
Improve Brain Function With A Molecularly Distilled Fish Oil Supplement
With the connection between fish oil and brain health being so clear, I recommend that you consider taking a daily fish oil capsule (or two). Make sure that the supplement you take has been molecularly distilled to rid it of all impurities.
To learn about the fish oil supplement product I recommend, click here.