Omega-3 fats including DHA and EPA are preferentially selected by the human body to form the critical cellular membrane boundary separating the cell nucleus and DNA with the surrounding extracellular environment. The precise fatty acid composition of the membrane determines permeability properties for the passage of essential materials such as oxygen, micronutrients and glucose required for proper cell function.
Researchers publishing in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, have found that a diet lacking in omega-3 fatty acids may cause your brain to age faster and lose some of its memory and cognitive capabilities. Regular fatty fish consumption or supplementing with a molecularly distilled form of fish oil is shown to improve memory and thought retention and may significantly lower the risk of cognitive decline associated with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Low Blood Levels of Omega-3 Fats Impact Cognition and Learning Processes
An extensive volume of research over the past decade has demonstrated that eating fish several times each week or supplementing with fish oil standardized to provide equivalent concentrations of the long chain fats, EPA and DHA improves brain development and improved levels of cognition as we age. Dr. Zaldy Tan of the Easton Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research at the University of California in Los Angeles noted “People with lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids had lower brain volumes that were equivalent to about two years of structural brain aging.”
Researchers assembled 1,575 individuals with an average age of 67 who were deemed free of dementia. The participants were given an MRI brain scan and took tests that measured mental function, body mass index (BMI) and the omega-3 fatty acid levels in their red blood cells. Scientists determined that those people in the lowest quartile of red blood cell DHA saturation had lower brain volume compared to people who had higher DHA levels. They also scored lower on tests of visual memory and executive function.
Eat Fatty Fish or Supplement with DHA Daily to Prevent Cognitive Decline
Dr. Tan and his team found a direct correlation between circulating levels of omega-3 fats and performing everyday tasks such as problem solving, multi-tasking and abstract thinking. The study team concluded “Lower RBC (red blood cell) DHA levels are associated with smaller brain volumes and a ‘vascular’ pattern of cognitive impairment even in persons free of clinical dementia.”
Nutrition experts recommend eating fatty fish at least three times per week to obtain adequate levels of the pre-formed omega-3 fats, DHA and EPA. Alternatively, you can supplement with distilled fish oil gel-caps providing between 1,200 and 2,400 mg of EPA/DHA fats (higher amounts indicated for optimal cardiovascular and brain health protection) to reduce the effects of brain aging and maintain normal brain volume as you age.