Have you met your fish and omega-3 quota this week? For many years, eating at least two servings of fish per week has been recommended to support cognitive function as well as cardiovascular health. Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna are the best source of the key nutrient omega-3 fatty acids.
With more than 6.5 million people in the United States over the age of 65 living with Alzheimer’s disease, most adults probably know someone with dementia, and what they have witnessed is scary for many. You may be more conscious of your omega-3 intake after learning the results of a new study that specifically looked at the impact of diet on the brain in people in midlife.
While you, too, may find memory loss and the inability to think clearly or make decisions frightening, scientific research increasingly argues that dementia is not inevitable with advancing age, and we can reduce our risk of developing the disease. That steals the mind through diet.
Recently, researchers from UT Health San Antonio’s Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases and other brain research institutions investigated the association between red blood cell omega-3 fatty acid concentrations and cognitive markers of brain aging in adults. middle-aged. Their study, published in 2022 in Neurologyincluded 2,183 brain-healthy participants from the Omni 2 and third-generation cohorts of the Framingham Heart Study.
The scientists measured the subjects’ blood concentrations of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids found in greatest abundance in oily fish. They then used brain MRIs to measure the participants’ brain volumes, including total volumes of gray matter, hippocampus, and white matter. By comparing omega-3 concentrations with measurements from the brain, as well as with cognitive functions such as memory and reasoning, the researchers found a correlation between higher omega-3 levels and larger brain volume and better cognitive ability. .
In addition, fish oil appeared to protect carriers of a genetic variant called APOE e4, which puts them at increased risk of Alzheimer’s, according to the study. APOE-e4 carriers with higher DHA concentrations showed larger hippocampal volumes, while higher blood EPA was associated with better abstract reasoning.
“This is a compelling study that highlights an important association between omega-3s and cognitive function, and continues to lay the foundation for using food as medicine,” he says. Dr. Uma NaidooHarvard-trained nutritional psychiatrist, professional chef, and best-selling author This is your brain on food. “Without a doubt, omega-3 fatty acids are one of the critical nutrients that I recommend for supporting mental health through nutrition.”
Your body doesn’t make omega-3s, so the best way to ensure you’re getting this important nutrient is to eat more fish. You can get a plant-based omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) from eating walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and canola oil, but your body must convert ALA into DHA and EPA. Omega-3 enriched eggs and peanut butter are other sources.
But you’ll get more of the good stuff by eating oily fish like herring, wild salmon, tuna (including canned tuna), mackerel, sardines, anchovies, trout, oily fish, and striped bass. For another fish story, check out our article All the Popular Fish: Ranked For Their Nutritional Benefits.
If you find it difficult to eat more than two servings of fish per week, you may want to consider taking fish oil supplements. But nutritionists and many doctors recommend getting omega-3s directly from food.
No matter how you do it, getting more omega-3s sounds like a good idea.