Omega-3 Fatty Acids Linked to Brain Aging
A new study suggests that higher omega-3 fatty acid blood levels may correlate to slower brain aging.
The main essential fatty acids in the human diet are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Fish oil contains two omega-3 fatty acids called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Some nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which may be converted to DHA and EPA in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to provide a wide range of health benefits, including a lower risk of coronary heart disease and improvement in cholesterol. There is some evidence that regular fish and omega-3 fatty acid consumption may help reduce dementia risk. However, results are conflicting.
In a recent study, researchers evaluated data on 1,111 postmenopausal women from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study to assess the potential association between omega-3 fatty acid blood levels and brain aging. Brain aging was evaluated through various measurements including total brain volume.
After adjusting data for factors such as hormone therapy and heart disease risk factors, the researchers found that higher omega-3 index levels, including both EPA and DHA, were associated with 2.1 cubic centimeters greater brain volume than lower levels. Furthermore, higher omega-3 index levels were associated with larger hippocampus volume, which is the region of the brain that plays important roles in short-term memory and long-term memory.
The authors concluded that a higher omega-3 index may be associated with larger normal brain volume and thus slower brain aging. Further research is warranted.
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- Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. www.naturalstandard.com
- Pottala JV, Yaffe K, Robinson JG, et al. Higher RBC EPA + DHA corresponds with larger total brain and hippocampal volumes: WHIMS-MRI Study. Neurology. 2014 Jan 22.
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