Omega 3 For Cognition
Omega 3 for Memory and Cognition
Omega-3 fatty acids are the healthy fats which are responsible for most of the brain and mental health benefits of fish oil. Fish oil is one of the most popular supplements when it comes to brain health. Most of us will remember taking these around the time of exams with a hope of increasing concentration and memory. The science behind this is encouraging, as studies have shown that taking supplements containing Omega-3 can improve memory, increase concentration and boost mood.
But fish oil supplementation is not sustainable and exposes us to contaminants such as mercury and microplastics. Our Omega-3 from algae contains high doses of both DHA and EPA – two of the most important fatty acids for brain health. We source them direct from algae to give you all the benefits of Omega-3 without any of the nasties of fish oil.
Omega-3 is critical for normal brain function and development throughout all stages of life, here’s why…
DHA is the most abundant fatty acid in the brain. It helps to structure the growing brain and is needed throughout life to keep our brains healthy.
Getting enough DHA when we are growing is essential to form a healthy brain. It works as a sort of building-block, helping to structure all of the different parts of the brain and make sure they are fully formed. This is an important factor in the prevention of developmental disorders. DHA deficiency during infancy has been linked with developing conditions such as ADHD, Autism and also learning disabilities later in childhood. On the other hand, getting enough DHA in the early years has been linked with higher intelligence and better school performance.
We continue to need DHA from our diets to maintain healthy brain function during adulthood. Although fully-formed, the adult brain is constantly moving nutrients in and out, replenishing nerves and neurons. When new cells are formed they need a supply of DHA to be created. Without this, we risk building cells that are faulty and can later lead to disease. DHA also has a ‘neuroprotective’ function, which means that it helps to protect existing brain cells from damage.
During later life, DHA helps us to think faster and remember more. Ageing is a natural and unavoidable process, but getting enough Omega-3 in your diet can help to preserve your memory and concentration for as long as possible. It also protects us from premature age-related memory loss.
One of the best examples of the impact of Omega-3 on memory can be seen by looking at the effect it has on Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of Dementia. It is a disease which starts slowly and worsens over time. One of the earliest symptoms is the loss of short-term memory.
Studies have shown that people with Alzheimer’s have severely low levels of DHA in the brain. Not having enough DHA in brain areas responsible for making memories can worsen symptoms of Alzheimer’s. This can speed-up the process of cognitive decline.
The good news is that supplementing Omega-3 can help to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s, and even prevent it from worsening to Dementia. One study found that those carrying a gene making them likely to develop the disease could take high dose DHA supplements to slow its progression.
DHA also helps to improve short-term memory in younger adults. One study found that healthy adults eating a diet high in Omega-3 had around 30% higher levels of DHA in areas of the brain important for memory. This in turn improved recall time, how much information they could store and how long they could store it for. So, the DHA we get from our diet is literally taken from food and stored in the brain to perform its key functions – fascinating!
Omega-3 fatty acids can improve emotional and mental health. Research has shown that they have ‘psychotropic’ effects, meaning they have the power to effect mind, behaviour and emotions. Taking them can prevent structural damage to the brain, which could result in mental health problems. It can also reduce the impact of symptoms once a condition has developed.
One study has found that Omega-3 supplementation can reduce depressive symptoms in those with chronic depression. The benefits were comparable to those achieved by taking antidepressants. What’s more, it found that people who took both Omega-3 and prescribed antidepressants experienced even fewer depressive symptoms. Whilst research is ongoing, healthcare professionals recommend achieving at least your recommended intake of Omega-3 to prevent and lessen the impact of depression.
Further research has found that EPA supplements can be used as an effective therapy for other mood disorders, including Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia and Postnatal Depression. EPA doesn’t build into the brain’s structure like DHA does, instead it works as an anti-inflammatory. In the brain, inflammation can interfere with chemicals that effect our mood such as dopamine and serotonin. These are ‘happy chemicals’ that help us to feel positive emotions such as pleasure, reward and motivation. EPA works to lower inflammation and restore the balance of these chemicals, which in turn stabilises mood.
With mental health and ill-health originating in the brain, it is unsurprising that both DHA and EPA can help to prevent mental disorders and promote emotional wellbeing. Using natural nutritional supplements as therapy for such conditions could lessen the impact of side effects and dependency associated with pharmaceutical alternatives.
Mocking, R., Harmsen, I., Assies, J., Koeter, M., Ruhé, H. and Schene, A. (2016). Meta-analysis and meta-regression of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for major depressive disorder. Translational Psychiatry, 6(3), pp.e756-e756.
Gómez-Pinilla, F. (2008). Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9(7), pp.568-578.
Pan, Y., Khalil, H. and Nicolazzo, J. (2015). The Impact of Docosahexaenoic Acid on Alzheimer’s Disease: Is There a Role of the Blood-Brain Barrier?. Current Clinical Pharmacology, 10(3), pp.222-241.
Owen, C., Rees, A. and Parker, G. (2006). Omega-3 fatty acids and mood disorders. Acta Neuropsychiatrica, 18(06), p.302.