Fish Oil May Prevent Brain Shrinkage

Did You Know… that fish oil may prevent brain shrinkage?

By now, everyone has heard about the health benefits of omega-3 essential fatty acids.  These health powerhouses can:

 lower triglycerides
 help prevent heart disease
 protect against debilitating depression
 relieve joint pain and stiffness
 treat asthma

Omega-3 Prevents Brain Shrinkage 

Researchers looked at 1,111 postmenopausal women who had taken part in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study, which set out to discover the impact estrogen therapy has on age-related dementia. University of South Dakota researchers, however, wanted to discover if omega-3 might stall the brain shrinkage that corresponds with aging. Omega-3 levels in red blood cells were measured at the start of the study, and MRI scans were taken at the end of eight years (when the women were an average of 78 years old).

What they found was impressive.  The women with the highest levels of omega-3 at the start of the study had a 0.7% larger brain size after eight years than the women with the lowest levels of omega-3.  Plus, the MRI scans of those with higher omega-3 levels showed a 2.7% larger volume in the hippocampus (the area of the brain responsible for emotion and memory—and the one most affected by Alzheimer’s).  The hippocampus begins to shrink before symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease ever manifest!  Ultimately, these benefits can mean a delay of 1 or 2 years or more in the loss of brain cells and age-related dementia.

Lead researcher James Potable explains the effect of essential fatty acids on brain health:

“It’s likely that fish oil doesn’t increase brain volume, but prevents brain shrinkage with age.  This could be due to several mechanisms.  The brain metabolizes DHA into several anti-inflammatory compounds that could help prevent cell death.  Also, DHA is concentrated in nerve cell membranes, so if a sufficient amount is not available in the blood for replenishment then it makes sense that the amount of brain matter would decline over time.”

Fortify with EFAs 

Your body cannot make essential fatty acid omega-3 on its own, and depends on a diet of oily, wild-caught, coldwater fish, such as salmon and sardines.  When supplementing with DHA, keep in mind that the body has trouble converting omega-3 from plant sources (in the form of ALA) into brain and heart healthy DHA and EPA omega-3s.  Experts recommend that you look for an omega supplement derived from molecularly distilled fish oils and made up of 700-1000 mg of EPA and 200-500 mg of DHA in the smallest number of capsules.