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Is Fish Oil a Quick Fix for Your Memory?

Fish has been touted as brain food for a long time. New research shows that people with high levels of omega-3s in their blood are have greater brain health in old age. However, there's no quick fix.

Copyright (c) 2008 BrainFit For Life

A lot research has focused on omega-3 fats as good for body and brain function. Scientists have scrutinized these fats in everything from heart disease and diabetes to depression, bipolar illness, schizophrenia, ADHD and Alzheimer's. The latest papers to add to the experimental pile come from a recent edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The new studies evaluate omega-3s in people in their 70s and 80s and relate to cognitive function, mood and mental well-being. The bottom line to the new findings is that having higher levels of omega-3s in your blood protects you from many cognitive problems of old age. The downside is that you can't just start taking them in your 70s and expect quick results. However, longer use may still be beneficial.

So what's the best way to boost omega-3 levels in your blood. First, you have to understand that there are different kinds of omega-3s that come from different sources. The kind of omega-3s that are good for your brain are called 'long-chain' omega-3s, most commonly DHA and EPA, and fish is the best source for these.

You may have heard that things like flaxseed oil and walnuts are high in omega-3s as well. Although this is true, these foods are only high in 'short-chain' omega-3s, which are not the kind that appear to have the most brain benefit.

To complicate things even further, most animals can convert the short-chain to long chain forms, but humans are not very good at this. If we want to increase long-chain omega-3s in our blood and increase our odds of aging with a healthy brain, eating sources of long-chain omega-3s is our best bet. Fish is the #1 source.

If you don't eat about 3 servings of fish per week, you should really consider taking a fish oil supplement on a regular basis. If you are a vegetarian who does not eat fish at all, don't fret, there are also algal oil supplements out there that have the long-chain omega-3s. After all, fish can't make omega-3s either. They get them by eating marine plants (or eating other fish that eat marine plants). Fish are just good at concentrating omega-3s in their meat, so are a great source for us folks that don't like chewing on seaweed.

Fish has been considered brain food for the better part of a couple of centuries. Whether you like it or not, our bodies are designed to run best on a diet high in marine sources. If you look at the cultures around the world who enjoy longevity and vibrant health into their old age, you will find fish as a staple in all of them.

There is nothing new to this advice. Only that we are now beginning to understand why fish and the omega-3s they give us, are important for many aspects of our mood and metabolism. Once again, science finally catches up to age-old wisdom to support what we have known all along - Fish is brain food, eat it and prosper.

Reference: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2008). 88: pp 595, 706, 714Business Management Articles, 722.

Article Tags: Long-chain Omega-3s

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