Omega 3 & Your Brain’s Structure. Thinking Better From The Ground Up:
A lot of the best behavior we can engage in one way or another is a type of Investment.
Because it’s not just great to enjoy your capabilities for today; you also might like to keep them into the future, right?
Well, you’re not “officially in-shape” at one point and never have to go back to the gym afterward.
So to retain our abilities, we need habits to keep at it with the hope of some accrual and future pay-off.
One of the most powerful routines we have besides exercise is nutrition.
And a UTSA team is finding out some of the nutritional recommendations everyone’s Mom used to hand out are really good for the long term…
The Short Answer:
- Many positive threads in life depend on good habits.
- Health is one of them and good nutrition can make a big difference.
- Awhile back a few articles wrongly claimed that Fish Oil is BS.
- But everyone’s Mom was right about fish being brain food; for several reasons.
- About 22000 subjects without stroke or dementia were examined from previous data.
- Those with higher levels of Omega 3 oils in their blood had better brain function and brain-structure!
- Their memory centers were bigger.
- They did better on abstract reasoning tests.
- Those who carried the Alzheimer’s gene had less brain damage.
- The UTSA researchers also discovered the best & worst levels of Omega 3 someone could have.
- Below 3.4% was low. Between 4-8% was intermediate. Subjects with a 5.2% concentration had the highest test scores.
- 8% and over would be considered optimal.
- You don’t need to eat fish to get the benefits of Omega 3.
- The FDA currently recommends between 8-12 ounces/week.
- Some of the safest choices currently appear to be: Cod, Herring, Sardines, Mackerel, and Lake Trout.
- Even small amounts of Flax-seed oil are a great source of Omega 3.
Read on to find out the details…
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There is no shortage of controversy in the supplement space.
And in that vein, there were no shortage of articles a few years ago proclaiming, “Fish Oil Is BS!”
-Despite the fact that manufacturers go out of their way to do things like including DHA in baby food to help make the world a smarter place.
Not to mention that when we were in grade-school, almost every one of us got told by our Moms to eat the odd-smelling protein on our dinner plates, because “Fish is brain food!”
Well the more time goes on, the more it seems Mom was in agreement with the great OG nutritionist, Hippocrates.
And of course as a result, turned out to be absolutely right.
That’s where the UT Health SA team’s work comes in.
Because they looked at Framingham Heart Study data from almost 2200 subjects with an average age of 46 and a 53/47 percentage split between women and men, respectively.
None of the subjects suffered from dementia or stroke in the past.
What they found is that Omega 3 oils, almost certainly from fish by hook or by crook, were associated with better brain function.
Not only that, but as a bookend to the education vs. brain-aging post, the team also found those oils were associated with better brain structures.
Subjects who had indicators of higher Omega 3 oil intake had a few interesting characteristics.
These were observable because the data the UT team looked at also included MRI scans.
And for subjects with the higher O3 intake, those scans clearly showed:
1) Larger volumes in the memory-center of the brain (hippocampus)
1a) These were slightly-more associated with DHA levels in normal subjects
2) Fewer indications of white-matter structural damage for people who carried 1 or more of the Alzheimer’s gene (APOE4)
Still further, those subjects with evidence of O3 consumption also did better on cognitive brain-function tests, too!
Across all groups, even for those who carried the Alzheimer’s gene, everyone did better at Abstract Reasoning tests as evidence of their intake went up.
But wait, there’s more!
So how do you know something is good compared to other things, if you can’t measure it in some way?
Well, this is one of the really big “stealth wins” of the UT work.
Because they were able to sift through the data and associate all kinds of Omega-3 oil levels from blood samples,
With those of greater or lesser performance indicated by the concentrations.
What they found there was:
1) The lowest cognitive scorers had an average of 3.4% or less O3 in their blood
2) The highest-performing individuals had an average concentration of 5.2%
3) The range between 4-8% was considered intermediate
4) The optimal concentration was 8% or above
5) Anything below 4% is considered low
All of which is amazing, because now people have a specific number to shoot for and if they’re a crazy self-optimizer, they might even get tested for as a check-in!
The main study author, Dr. Claudia Satizabal went on to say how positive this all looks,
And that with small changes in diet that are nearly-consistent with the current recommended intake of fish,
Individuals could be doing themselves a huge favor and also making a big impact.
Also if you’re wary of fish, you can check out the pregnancy fish oil post.
The main idea there is to say that many types of smaller fish from lower on the food chain are safer (except for bottom-feeders).
And from a contamination standpoint, even Pacific Salmon isn’t recommended by the Foran Study more than 1x/month,
Due to either methylmercury or PCB contamination.
The other idea in that post, is maybe a 1/2tsp./day of Barlean’s Organic Flax Oil would be even safer than going too crazy on Salmon.
Even the FDA currently recommends at least 8oz/wk, but no more than 12 for fish intake.
But out of the various lists out there, and there are many, some of the safest choices appear to be Cod, Herring, Mackerel (not King Mackerel, esp. not from Mexico), Sardines, and Lake Trout.
So although the authors are modest and remind us that this work is still preliminary, observational, and cannot scientifically show actual causation,
It’s yet another feather in the cap of Omega 3s.
The current work on the magic of fish, fish oil, DHA, and Omega 3s couldn’t arrive soon enough!
• Source: UT Health
• More Coverage: FDA – Mercury In Fish 1990-2012 | CC, Fish – 3 Good, 3 Bad | PharmacolRes. DHA | Mt.Sinai EPA
• Source Study: Neurology – Association of Red Blood Cell Omega-3 Fatty Acids With MRI Markers and Cognitive Function in Midlife: The Framingham Heart Study