Health: Omega-3-Rich Foods May Improve Middle-Aged Brain Health, Research Shows
- The key facts regarding the survey of omega-3-rich foods
- What else do omega-3-rich foods hold importance for?
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and sardines may help improve brain health in middle-aged adults, according to a new study, adding to a growing list of health benefits offered by the family of fats, which have also been shown to reduce inflammation and help prevent heart disease.
Consuming foods with more omega-3 fatty acids—a type of fat the body cannot produce on its own that is commonly found in certain types of fish as well as flax and chia seeds—was tied to larger hippocampal volumes, a structure of the brain that plays a key role in learning and memory, according to the study, published Wednesday in Neurology.
“Eating oily fish frequently boosts life expectancy by roughly 5 years because it raises the levels of these acids in the blood.”
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The study, which included 2,183 participants with an average age of 46, also found that participants with higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids in their red blood cells performed better on a test of abstract reasoning—or the capacity to use logical thinking to understand complex concepts—than those with lower concentrations of the nutrient.
Omega-3 fatty acids also appeared to have advantages for people with the APOE4 gene, which increases the risk of Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease: People with the gene who had higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids had a lower incidence of small-vessel disease, a condition in which the walls of the small arteries in the heart don’t function properly.
According to the study, even a modest intake of these fatty acids—such as the two servings of fish per week suggested by the American Heart Association—”may be enough to preserve brain function,” said Claudia Satizabal, a study author from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.
Things we don’t know
The exact mechanism by which the two kinds of omega-3s assessed in Wednesday’s study improve brain health is unknown. According to some studies, the family of fats may have anti-inflammatory properties that help neurotransmitters—chemical messengers between neurons—perform better. Satizabel acknowledged that the situation is “complicated” and that “experts don’t understand everything yet,” but said that by boosting omega-3 intake “even a little bit, you are preserving your brain.”
Background for importance
In addition to being an essential component of cell membranes, omega-3 fatty acids are also crucial for the generation of hormones that control a variety of biological functions, including blood clotting and inflammation. Fish, vegetable oils, nuts, and green vegetables are just a few of the foods that provide the critical elements that the body cannot create on its own, including lipids.
Numerous health advantages, including a decreased risk of heart disease, blood clots, and lower levels of inflammation in the body, have been associated with fats. Less research has been done in younger populations, despite previous findings that lipids may improve brain health in older persons.
Scientists say more thorough research is required to support a link between depression and consuming more omega-3 fatty acids, despite some evidence to the contrary. By lowering inflammation, the family of lipids may also have an impact on mood disorders, albeit it is currently unclear how this process functions.
The highest estimate of survival was found in non-smokers with high blood levels of omega-3. In terms of survival estimations, people with high omega-3 levels who smoked and those with low omega-3 levels who did not smoke were nearly comparable.
The lowest estimate of survival was seen in persons who smoked but had low blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids.