Adding to the expanding list of wellness benefits provided by the family of fats, that have also shown to decrease inflammation and assist to avoid heart disease, a new study suggests that eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and sardines, may significantly boost brain health in middle-aged adults.
Based on a study that was published on Wednesday in the journal Neurology, eating foods that contained a greater amount of omega-3 fatty acids — a type of fat that the body cannot produce on its own but that is commonly found in certain types of fish as well as flax and chia seeds — was associated with larger hippocampal volumes. The hippocampus is a structure of the brain that plays an important role in learning and memory.
According to the findings of the study, participants who had a higher concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in their red blood cells also performed better on a test of abstract reasoning than those who had lower levels of the nutrient. Abstract reasoning can be defined as the ability to use logical thinking to understand complex concepts. The study looked at 2,183 participants with an average age of 46.
Those with the APOE4 gene, which is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular disease, who had higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids had less small-vessel disease, which is a condition in which the walls of the heart’s small arteries don’t function properly. Omega-3 fatty acids also seemed to offer benefits for those carrying the APOE5 gene, which is not a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease or cardiovascular disease.
“May be enough to preserve brain function,” Claudia Satizabal, a study author with the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, said in a statement about the findings of the study. The study suggests that even a small consumption of the fatty acids—such as two servings of fish per week, as recommended by the American Heart Association—”may be enough to preserve brain function.”
The Mystery and Facts Around It
In the study that was published on Wednesday, researchers evaluated two different forms of omega-3 fatty acids and attempted to determine how they affect brain health. Some study indicates that the family of fats may give anti-inflammatory advantages, which may enhance the functioning of neurotransmitters, which are molecules that transfer chemical messages between neurons. Satizabel said, “It’s complex,” and she added that scientists “don’t understand everything yet.” However, she noted that if you increase your consumption of omega-3s “even by a little amount,” you are protecting your brain.
Omega-3 fats are an essential component of cell membranes and also play a crucial function in the generation of hormones that govern inflammatory responses and blood coagulation, in addition to other activities throughout the body. The human body is unable to create fats on its own and must instead obtain these vital nutrients from the food that it consumes. Some sources of these essential nutrients include fish, vegetable oils, nuts, and leafy green vegetables. The fats have been associated with a plethora of health advantages, including a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, blood clots, and lower levels of inflammation throughout the body. Previous study has revealed that the fats may improve brain function in elderly persons; however, there have been much less studies undertaken on younger groups.
Although some study has shown that increasing one’s omega-3 fatty acid consumption could give a tiny buffer against depression, doctors warn that more definitive research is needed to substantiate a relationship between the two. It is possible that the family of lipids might alter mood disorders through lowering inflammation, however the precise workings of this process are not yet fully understood.