Over the past few decades, omega-3, a fatty acid, has been shown to play a crucial role in maintaining brain health. As we will see in new research below, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids helps get blood into the brain and toxins out. Omega-3 can help support the neuron message center so messages from the brain to other parts of the body are clearly understood and not confused. Omega-3 can help support the growth and maintenance of healthy brain tissue. The benefits of these actions, as we will see, helps cognitive function, memory, mood and may possibly be key in helping patients at risk for developing neurodegenerative disorders.
Omega-3 associated with better cognitive function, slower rates of cognitive decline, and lower risk of developing dementia
A July 2021 study (1) found that in aging populations, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been associated with better cognitive function, slower rates of cognitive decline, and lower risk of developing dementia. While the researchers noted that abundance of animal studies on the subject, there is limited research in how omega-3 impacts memory function in human beings. blood-brain barrier
In this study, Forty-five healthy subjects (average age, 76 years old) were recruited and underwent cognitive assessment (verbal learning and memory, language, processing speed, executive function, and motor control) and measurement of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Forty of the 45 patients also underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure blood-brain barrier integrity. Trends were observed for a positive correlation between the long chain omega-3 score and both memory and language scores . . The significant correlations between long chain omega-3 levels and blood-brain barrier integrity provide a possible mechanism by which omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are associated with brain health.
The blood-brain barrier lets good nutrients in and lets toxic waste products from neuron energy activity out
To understand this study, let’s look at another paper that explains the role of the blood-brain barrier. It was published in the journal Frontiers in neuroscience.(2)
“Under physiological conditions, the brain consumes over 20% of the whole body energy supply. The blood-brain barrier (BBB) allows dynamic interactions between blood capillaries and the neuronal network in order to provide an adequate control of molecules that are transported in and out of the brain.
Alterations in the blood-brain barrier structure and function affecting brain accessibility to nutrients and exit of toxins are found in a number of diseases, which in turn may disturb brain function and nutrient signaling.”
Simply, the blood-brain barrier lets good nutrients in and lets toxic waste products from neuron energy activity out. If the nutrients do not get in, if the toxic elements do not get out, neurologic disease can set in. In the above studies, omega-3 is indicated as providing protections to maintain the blood-brain barrier structure and function, allowing nutrients in and toxins out.
Omega-3 seen as a means to prevent cognitive decline and depression in aging population
In August 2021 doctors writing in the journal Frontiers in nutrition (3) suggested: ” Although dietary supplements can be obtained and consumed without medical prescription, criteria should be necessary to identify patients affected with neurodegenerative diseases who would most benefit from such an approach (prescribed supplements). As an example, a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found that higher intake of the omega-3 EPA and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid, a type of omega-3 fat) improved specific cognitive domains in subjects with mild cognitive impairment without dementia but had no effects in healthy adults and those with Alzheimer’s disease. This suggests that people in the early stages of progression of cognitive decline and depression may benefit from treatment with omega-3, but that advanced disease is not susceptible to improvement.
The findings of this review suggest that individuals consuming higher amounts of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are less likely to develop cognitive impairment
An August 2021 study in the European journal of nutrition (4) continued along this line of research in suggesting an Omega-3 protective role against cognitive decline. The study’s authors examined the patient outcomes in 33 studies.
“The evidence suggests that dietary and supplemental omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids “have a protective effect against cognitive impairment. Synaptic plasticity, neuronal membrane fluidity, neuroinflammation, and changes in expression of genes linked to cognitive decline have been identified as potential targets of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.”
Let’s stop for some explanations:
Synaptic plasticity is seen as the ability of neurons to talk to each other and do so at regular pace. When the neurons have reduced or slowed communications, messages from brain to organs get slurred and may not make sense. Some researchers suggest that synaptic plasticity problems result in problems of memory storage.
One aspect of Neuronal membrane fluidity is the ability of brain cells to get rid of bad fats linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Bad fats in brain cells are also a cause of neuroinflammation.
Returning to the study:
“The protective effects omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on cognitive function and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease were supported by both observational studies and randomized clinical trials, with randomized clinical trials suggesting a more pronounced effect in individuals with early and mild cognitive impairment. . . The findings of this review suggest that individuals consuming higher amounts of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are less likely to develop cognitive impairment and that, as a preventative strategy against Alzheimer’s disease, it is most effective when dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are consumed prior to or in the early stages of cognitive decline.”
At the Magaziner Center for Wellness
At the Magaziner Center for Wellness, we approach disease and imbalance by first determining all contributing factors and creating an individualized, patient-centered treatment plan. The latest research has shown that there are a host of factors that can cause and contribute to cognitive decline, memory, mood and Alzheimer’s disease. These factors can range from environmental toxins to nutrition to heavy metal toxicity and more. Every person has a unique biochemistry which reacts to pollutants and toxins differently, and requires an individualized course of treatment. While the disease may look similar from person to person, we are not treating the disease. We are healing the individual.
In order to determine the unique contributing factors of each individual, we utilize extremely thorough blood and urine tests, as well as a complete examination of every aspect of the body, from mitochondrial function to heavy metal toxicity and more. We then create a personalized care plan based on these findings, which may include treatments such as chelation therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, antioxidant nutritional supplements, intravenous vitamins, diet and nutrition.
If you would like to explore more information, please contact our office so we can start a conversation with you.
1 Barnes S, Chowdhury S, Gatto NM, Fraser GE, Lee GJ. Omega‐3 fatty acids are associated with blood–brain barrier integrity in a healthy aging population. Brain and Behavior. 2021 Jul 29.
2 Haddad-Tóvolli R, Dragano NR, Ramalho AF, Velloso LA. Development and function of the blood-brain barrier in the context of metabolic control. Frontiers in neuroscience. 2017 Apr 21;11:224.
3 Businaro R, Vauzour D, Sarris J, Münch G, Gyengesi E, Brogelli L, Zuzarte P. Therapeutic Opportunities for Food Supplements in Neurodegenerative Disease and Depression. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2021;8.
4. Wood AHR, Chappell HF, Zulyniak MA. Dietary and supplemental long-chain omega-3 fatty acids as moderators of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. Eur J Nutr. 2021 Aug 15. doi: 10.1007/s00394-021-02655-4. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34392394.