Omega 3: A Precious Ally for the Brain

Omega 3: A Precious Ally for the Brain

What are Omega 3s?

The  Omega three family  includes fatty acids:  alpha linolenic acid  (ALA),  eicosapentaenoic acid  (EPA) and  docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These  nutrients  belong to the group of so-called  essential fatty acids , as the body cannot produce them and it is therefore necessary to introduce them in the diet. To tell the truth, EPA and DHA can be obtained starting from ALA, which the body must necessarily take in with the diet; however, certain circumstances ( old age , pharmacological therapies, etc.) affect the efficacy of this conversion metabolism , favoring the lack of EPA and DHA.

For these reasons, everyone should respect a diet sufficiently rich in alpha linolenic acid, preferably also characterized by the additional presence of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acid.

Omega 3 and Brain

Omega 3: Action on the Brain

Omega three (particularly DHA and EPA) are related to brain health in several ways. In this sense, the main functions are:

  • They constitute a very important structural element
  • They promote circulation thanks to:
    • Vasodilating capacity
    • Blood thinning
    • Anti-atherogenic potential
  • They prevent some cognitive disorders
  • They could have a protective effect on the typical degeneration of old age
  • Omega 3 in Development

    Omega 3: Role in Development and Growth

    Omega three are fundamental structural components for nervous tissue, therefore for the brain.
    This function assumes a determining role above all in  fetal development  and in the feeding of the first two years of life.
    This means that the diet should be particularly rich in omega 3 (in particular EPA and DHA) especially in the case of:

    • Pregnancy , during which nourishment is passed from the mother to the fetus.
    • Lactation , during which nourishment is transmitted from the mother to the infant (until  weaning ). In the event that  artificial milk is used , it is advisable to pay close attention to the formulation of the product.
    • Up to 18 months of age, although some studies underline how this considerable importance of a diet rich in DHA persists up to the twelfth year of age.They intervene positively on mood in case of  depression .

    Omega 3 and Depression

    Effects of Omega 3 on mood

    Several scientific studies have found a correlation between omega 3 intake and mood.
    In particular, EPA appears to be helpful in managing depression.
    The effect is probably related to the ability of EPA to act as a precursor of  prostaglandin  E3. This, probably thanks to its  anti-inflammatory function , is involved in the etiopathogenesis of depression (although the precise mechanism is not yet known). The studies that have attempted to demonstrate the correlation between omega three and anxiety  or  psychosis
    are less relevant or incomplete  .

    Omega 3 and Cognitive Abilities

    Omega 3: Role in Cognitive Processes and Memory

    This action mainly concerns the elderly: an effective, albeit modest, link has been found between good levels of omega 3 in the diet and improvement of mild cognitive deficits.
    On the contrary, the link between omega three intake and the prevention and improvement of Alzheimer’s disease  or  senile dementia has not yet been consolidated.

    Omega 3 and Brain Spraying

    Blood Circulation: Effects of Omega 3

    Omega three have an anti-atherogenic, arterial vasodilating  and  blood thinning capacity.
    Since  atherosclerotic plaques  frequently affect the  carotids  , obstructing them and affecting brain oxygenation, a diet rich in omega 3 can be considered preventive and beneficial.
    Furthermore, the fluidizing capacity hinders the formation of emboli and  thrombi  which can reach the  cerebral vessels  giving rise to the stroke .
    The vasodilatory capacity of these essential fats can only be beneficial for the circulation of the brain, especially in old age.
    These are real effects but their impact is difficult to demonstrate. Scientific insights have failed to correlate the intake of omega three to the prevention of cerebral ischemic events.

    Avoid Shortage

    The  nutritional requirement  of omega 3 for an adult corresponds to about 0.5-2.0% of total calories, of which at least 250 mg/day should consist of EPA and DHA.
    Increase in case of:

    • Gestation: + 100 or 200 mg of DHA
    • Breastfeeding: + 100 or 200 mg of DHA
    • Between the ages of 0 and 24 months: + 100 mg of DHA
    • Probably, in old age.

    Especially in these cases, it is necessary that the nutritional intake of omega three is more than adequate.

    Tips to ensure the intake of Omega 3

    • Ensure the intake of ALA: it is contained in  foods  of plant origin. It is advisable to consume the right portions of  fruit ,  vegetables ,  legumes ,  whole grains  and oilseeds . Some  oils  contain high concentrations; they could contribute considerably to the purpose if used raw and in partial replacement of the traditional condiment ( olive oil  or  butter ).
    • Ensure the supply of EPA and DHA: they are contained above all in  fatty fish  from cold seas and in   local oily fish . It is recommended to eat at least 2 and up to 4 servings per week. Certain  dietary supplements  such as fish oil ,  cod liver oil ,  squid oil ,  krill oil  and  algae oil  are very rich in EPA and DHA.
    • Ensure the integrity of omega 3s in products containing them. Foods  rich in omega 3  must be fresh or defrosted and unprocessed. Furthermore, supplements require optimal storage as they deteriorate significantly on exposure to light, heat and oxygen.
    • Ensuring the  right ratio between omega 3 and omega 6 : to clarify what it is about, I suggest you consult the dedicated article .



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *