Omega-3 Fatty Acids For Brain Health By Debbie Bowman, RHN On-Staff Nutritionist For Edible Island Whole Foods Market

December 3, 2016 Debbie Bowman

We all have those days when it seems our brains aren't working to capacity.  Unfortunately, as we age, those sub-par brain days happen more than we'd like to admit.  The good news is that researchers are aggressively searching for ways to slow down age-related cognitive decline.  Specifically, research points to the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA and their brain protective properties.  


Omega-3 fatty acids are clinically proven to be potent anti-inflammatories, cholesterol regulators and heart health supporters - good things at any age.  But there are also several studies that show omega-3 fatty acids as particularly important to the health of our brain - throughout our entire life, but especially as we age. 


A study published in the February 2014 edition of Neurology concluded that higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids correlated with larger brain and hippocampal volume eight years later.  Essentially, those with higher omega-3 levels in their blood experienced less brain atrophy than those with lower levels.  This makes sense, since omega-3 fatty acids comprise eight percent of our brain's weight and are the building blocks of one hundred billion neurons.  


So what can you do to protect the integrity of your brain as you age?  Omega 3 fatty acids are found in most oily fish, such as salmon, trout and sardines, as well as some plant based sources,  such as walnuts and flax seeds.  However,  the body has to do some converting to get the important EPA and DHA from these plant sources.  The most efficient way to raise one's blood level of omega-3 to a protective level is to eat wild caught oily fish, such as salmon or a serving of sardines, twice a week and to take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement every day.  


There are many quality fish oils on the market that will boost your blood levels of omega-3, but a better way to supplement omega-3 is to take krill oil.  Krill oil is special because the omega-3 fatty acids found in krill are attached to phospholipids - and phospholipids are what comprise our cell walls, particularly the cells of our brain.  In addition, krill oil has fifty times more naturally occurring astaxanthin than what is found in fish oil.  Astaxanthin is a powerful anti-oxidant that protects the krill oil from oxidative damage, making it two hundred times more resistant to oxidative damage than fish oil.  As an added bonus, astaxanthin is incredibly effective at protecting your eye sight. 


So the next time you forget where you put your keys or why you walked into a room, try to remember the omega-3 fatty acids.  Your brain will thank you.