Omega-3 is a healthy fatty acid that may improve brain function and development in all stages of life. Omega-3 fish oil supplements may improve memory in those with cognitive impairments like Alzheimer’s disease.
Omega 3 Fish oil is a popular over-the-counter supplement extracted from fatty fish like sardines, anchovies, mackerel, and salmon.
Fish oil primarily contains two types of omega-3 fatty acids — eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), known for their heart health and skin benefits.
It has several other benefits too. Check out the top benefits of Omega 3 Fish Oil.
However, in this article, we will be exploring the incredible impact of omega-3 fish oil on the brain, especially when it comes to mild memory loss and cognitive function.
This article reviews the research on how the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil may affect your brain and mental health.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Brain Health
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats responsible for most of the brain and mental health benefits of fish oil.
EPA and DHA
Fish oil primarily contains two types of omega-3 fatty acids — EPA and DHA.
These two fatty acids are components of cell membranes and have powerful anti-inflammatory functions within the body. They are also well known for their critical roles in human development and heart health.
In the human diet, EPA and DHA are almost exclusively found in fatty fish and fish oil. Because most people do not consume the recommended amounts of fish, many people likely fall short of getting enough EPA and DHA in their diets.
Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA)
The body can make EPA and DHA out of another omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is found in a number of food sources, such as walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, canola oil, soybeans, and soybean oil.
However, humans can’t convert ALA to EPA and DHA very efficiently, with estimates reporting that less than 10% of the amount of ALA you consume is converted to EPA or DHA.
Therefore, taking fish oil supplements may be a good option, especially for those who don’t eat much fish but are still looking to gain some of the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
How do Omega 3 Fish Oil Help Brain to Function Better
The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are critical for normal brain function and development throughout all stages of life.
Omega-3 Fish Oil and Children’s Brain Health
EPA and DHA seem to have important roles in the developing baby’s brain. In fact, several studies have correlated pregnant women’s fish intake or fish oil use with higher scores for their children on tests of intelligence and brain function in early childhood.
These fatty acids are also vital for the maintenance of normal brain function throughout life. They are abundant in the cell membranes of brain cells, preserving cell membrane health and facilitating communication between brain cells.
When animals are fed diets without omega-3 fatty acids, the amount of DHA in their brains decreases, and they tend to experience deficits in learning and memory.
Omega-3 Fish Oil and Adult’s Brain Health
In older adults, lower levels of DHA in the blood have been associated with smaller brain size, a sign of accelerated brain aging.
Clearly, it is important to make sure you get enough omega-3 fatty acids to avoid some of these detrimental effects on brain function and development.
Fish Oil May Benefit Mild Memory Loss
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil play important roles in brain function and development. There are also claims that fish oil can improve brain function in people with memory problems, such as those with Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive impairments.
Fish oil and Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and impacts brain function and quality of life in millions of elderly adults. Finding a supplement that could improve brain function in this population would be a major, life-changing discovery.
Unfortunately, a review of the research found no compelling evidence that omega-3 supplements like fish oil improve brain function in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Fish Oil and Cognitive Function
On the other hand, several studies have suggested that taking fish oil supplements may improve brain function in people with milder types of brain conditions like mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or age-related cognitive decline.
These types of conditions aren’t quite as severe as Alzheimer’s disease, but they still result in memory loss and sometimes other types of impaired brain function.
Related Study and Research
One study gave 485 older adults with age-related cognitive decline either 900 mg of DHA or a placebo every day. After 24 weeks, those taking DHA performed better on memory and learning tests.
Similarly, another study investigated the effects of taking 1.8 grams of omega-3s from fish oil supplements daily for 24 weeks. The researchers found improvements in brain function in people with MCI, but no benefits for those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Based on this research, it appears that fish oil supplements may be most beneficial when people start taking them in the early stages of brain function decline. If you wait too long, fish oil may be of little benefit to the brain.
EPA and DHA are omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil that are vital for normal brain function and development.
People with mild decline in brain function should consider taking omega-3s from fish oil, as they may see improvements in their symptoms and brain function.
Unfortunately, research has shown that fish oil has no effects in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Taking 1,000–2,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil per day may be a good place to start. Your daily dose should not exceed 3,000 mg.
Although fish oil is typically praised for its benefits for heart health, it also has incredible effects on brain and mental health that are worthy of some attention.