The Benefits of Omega-3 on the Brain


It is now well-known that Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to the brain. The consumption of certain types of fish rich in phosphorous is often recommended due to their positive impact on the functioning of the brain; phosphorous improves, among other things, one’s memory.

Scientists have shown that the benefits of fish on the memory were also linked to the amount of Omega-3 the fish contained. A study has already been done that linked dementia in aging individuals and a deficiency in Omega-3. It’s this study that inspired the scientists to see if this phenomenon could also be observed within a sample of healthy individuals. They used the participants of the massive Framingham Heart Study.

1575 healthy individuals, of an average age of 67 years participated in the study: their levels of Omega-3 were noted and their brains scanned, all as they answered neuropsychological tests.

During this study, scientists notably discovered that:

  • Individuals who had low levels of DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) also had smaller brains, particularly the zone in which grey matter is found (substance linked to one’s intelligence).
  • Individuals who had low levels of DHA also had weaker eyesight and more difficulty reasoning and making decisions.

Interestingly enough, it was for the totality of the sample tested that these results were observed!

Nevertheless, there does not seem to be a link between Omega-3 levels and verbal capacities. Zaldy Tan, research director, notably explains that those deficient in Omega-3 tend to age faster than the average, which also leads to a faster loss of memory, or even difficulty reasoning and making judgments. His team concludes by explaining that “low levels of DHA are linked to a premature aging of the brain’s structural and cognitive markers.

Long chain fatty acids, like DHA, are hard to find in plants (certain seaweed primarily contains them, such as Crypthecodinium cohnii and Schizochytrium), and a conversion from ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) to DHA is necessary, whereas they are abundant in animals, particularly in fish. This is why Omega-3 supplements are often recommended to vegetarians.

Omega-3 is also very important for pregnant women, as it partakes in the cognitive and retinal development of the fetus. More information on this can be found here.


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