Tim Sandle-New research suggests that fish oil helps with brain development, not just at childhood but through adult life. The latest study charts improvements in the brain function of post-menopausal women.
Researchers have studied 1,000 post-menopausal women, looking at the levels of two fatty acids found in fish, called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These are both types of omega-3s. EPA is known to reduce the risk of heart disease, and a lack of DHA has been linked to visual and cognitive problems.
The researchers found that women with significantly higher levels of the two fatty acids in their red blood cells also tended to have larger brains, and larger hippocampuses (the part of the brain associated with forming memories).
The reason for the focus on older women is because other studies have shown that in older adults, the brain generally shrinks with aging. Thus the research team were keen to see if taking essential fatty acids helped avoid this effect and instead promote brain growth.
Based on the findings, the researchers are of the opinion that the presence of EPA and DHA may help prevent shrinking in the brain, either because DHA is used in anti-inflammatory compounds that prevent cell death, or because it is used in the construction of the membranes of brain cells, but the exact reason for the connection requires further study.
The findings have been published in the journal Neurology. The article is titled “Higher RBC EPA + DHA corresponds with larger total brain and hippocampal volumes.”
It should also be noted, as Digital Journal has reported, there are some health concerns associated with omega-3’s. Here, a research team found that in mice, large amounts of dietary omega-3 fatty acids led to increased risk of colitis and immune alteration.