Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Brain Health

The omega 3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) found in fish oil have an important role in supporting optimal brain function. DHA is the most abundant omega 3 fatty acid in the brain, and it makes up 50% of the weight of the neuron's plasma membrane. DHA deficiency is associated with cognitive decline, and is found to be depleted in the cerebral cortex of severely depressed patients. EPA is also thought to possess beneficial potential for depression, as well as helping other mental conditions, such as schizophrenia.

Both DHA and EPA are thought to help improve cognitive function, learning ability, memory, mental alertness, as well as boost concentration and focus. These omega 3 fatty acids are also thought to posses the ability to help ward off or slow down serious mental conditions such as bipolar disorder, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and dementia.

Alzheimer's Disease

The omega 3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is thought to help protect against the accumulation in the body of a protein believed to be linked to Alzheimer's disease. A number of studies have found that a diet high in DHA dramatically slowed the progression of Alzheimer's disease in mice and reduced the harmful brain plaques that mark the disease by up to 70%.

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Sufferers of ADHD often experience difficulty completing tasks, difficulty concentrating, and can be prone to impulsive behaviour. Studies have shown a link between low concentrations of omega 3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) with reduced levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, key components in regulating motivation and attention.

Depression

Omega 3 fatty acids are an essential component of nerve cell membranes in the brain, and a depletion can lead to inefficient communication between the nerve cells (neurons), and consequently impaired mental functioning. In a study of patients suffering from depression, it was found that levels of omega-3 fatty acids were notably low, and those who went on to eat oily fish 2-3 times per week for 5 years demonstrated a significant decrease in hostile feelings and depression.

Omega 3 fatty acids are thought to assist in the brain's re-uptake of serotonin, an important neurotransmitter that plays a part in regulating moods, as well as some cognitive functions such as memory and learning.

Parkinson's Disease

Animal studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids exhibit a neuroprotective effect in Parkinson's disease. Mice were fed a high omega-3 diet and then treated with a neurotoxin that mimics the effects of Parkinson's. These mice did not undergo the neurotoxin-induced decrease of dopamine that would normally occur, offering hope that this protective effect could assist future research in the prevention of Parkinson's disease.