Omega 3 fatty acids are the primary components of fish oil produced from fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines.
This over-the-counter supplement contains two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids namely eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that is linked to better heart and skin health.
Aside from these well-known benefits, fish oil has also shown to positively influence brain health, particularly in cases of depression and loss of memory.
Read on to know more about the effects of omega-3 on the brain.
Different Types Of Fish Oil Omega-3
EPA and DHA are the two types of omega 3s that constitute fish oil which are responsible for brain and mental health.
Fatty fish and fish oil are almost the sole reliable source of these polyunsaturated fatty acids for the human diet. Due to this, individuals who do not include fatty fish in their regular diet, become deficient in omega 3s.
Another round-about way to access EPA and DHA is through another omega 3 known as alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in a number of food sources like tree nuts, canola oil and soya bean oil.
However, only an estimated 10% of the ALA from these sources are converted to EPA and DHA, which is highly insufficient.
Omega 3 fatty acids play a significant role in heart health and have potent anti-inflammatory functions.
To gain maximum health benefits of omega 3s, consuming them in the form of supplements is another good option.
Effect Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids On the Brain
EPA and DHA play a vital role in brain health, starting from the developmental stage and throughout all other stages of life.
EPA and DHA are found in abundance in the cell membrane of neurons (brain cells), aiding in intercellular communication and cell membrane health.
Several studies have established a correlation between the use of fish oil or fish intake by pregnant women to higher IQ scores of their children.
Also, animals who were fed on a diet without omega 3, showed decreased amounts of DHA in their brains and a tendency for lower learning and memory.
Low blood-DHA levels in older adults has been linked to faster brain aging and smaller brain size.
Needless to say that omega 3s are important, not just for it’s known good effects on the heart and skin, but also for healthy and efficient brain function.
Fish Oil Omega-3 And Mild Memory Loss
Given the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids on brain health, there have been several research efforts to investigate possible improvements in memory in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
An over-the-counter supplement that improves brain function and quality of life in Alzheimer’s patients raised the hopes of millions around the world.
However, what could have been a major breakthrough in the management of one of the most common causes of dementia in elderly adults, proved to be a disappointment.
A review of research showed that there was no strong evidence associating omega 3 supplements with improved brain function in Alzheimer’s patients.
However, several studies have indicated a positive effect of omega 3s on less severe brain conditions like mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or age-related cognitive decline.
Although these conditions are mild in comparison to Alzheimer’s disease, they still result in memory loss and cognitive impairment.
In one study 484 older adults were given either 990 mg of DHA or a placebo everyday for a period of 24 weeks.
The subjects who took DHA performed better in memory and learning tests.
Another study showed improvement in brain function in MCI patients who were put on 1.8 g of fish oil every day for a period of 24 weeks. This was however ineffective in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
It is also safe to presume that fish oil supplements are most effective when initiated during the early stages of cognitive decline as opposed to during later stages.
Fish Oil Omega-3 And Depression
There is nothing better than a non-medical solution to improve symptoms of mental health disorders. Finding such options will continue to be a top priority in the healthcare industry.
It is still unclear as to how EPA and omega-3s reduce depressive symptoms in people with depression. However, a recent study showed that regular fish oil consumption produced antidepressants-like effects in people with depression.
These effects are enhanced in people who take fish oil supplements along with antidepressants. These effects are even better when the doses of EPA are high in the supplements.
As pointed out earlier, the exact mechanism of these effects is unclear.
One plausible explanation is related to the effect of serotonin and serotonin receptors in the brain. Another explanation relates to the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 from fish oil on symptoms of depression.
Some other evidence suggests that fish oil also has desirable effects on people with bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. More research is required to support these claims.
Is Fish Oil Omega-3 Recommended For Better Brain Health?
It is evident, based on the available research, that individuals who are most likely to enjoy the benefits of fish oil are those with mild decline in cognition and those diagnosed with depression. The amounts used in each research study was different, as a result, there is no standard recommended dosage of omega-3 that is shown to bring in maximum benefits.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommend 3000 mg and 5000 mg per day respectively as the upper safety limit.
Around 1000-2000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per day is likely to be good as it is below the recommended daily safe limit. Individuals diagnosed with depression will benefit from higher EPA amounts in the supplements.
A possible issue with over-the-counter supplements is the reliability. Brands may advertise a certain amount of omega-3 fatty acids in their product, but the actual amount may be just half of that. Hence it is important to read the label carefully before purchase.
AIWO Health’s Omega 3 Fish Oil Capsules have an optimum EPA: DHA ratio of 3:2 with 330 mg and 220 mg respectively. Originating from the best sources, a single bottle comes with 30 pills. It is enteric-coated, easy to swallow, and suitable for both men and women.
NOTE: Omega-3 is known to have blood thinning effects and may cause excessive bleeding in some individuals. Individuals who are on blood-thinning medication or who are about to undergo a surgery, are advised to inform their specialist before starting on omega-3 supplements.