Did you know that an estimated 80% of us aren’t getting enough omega-3 fatty acids worldwide?
As one of the essential nutrients for brain function, you can imagine what running low on this brain fuel could be doing. So, omega-3 deficiencies are alarmingly common - but could they be the missing link to keeping our minds sharp from infancy through to late adulthood?
The brain’s love affair with DHA
One of the primary omega-3 fats is docosahexaenoic acid, a.k.a DHA, the rockstar of the omega-3 world. In fact, around 25% of all fats in our brains are DHA fats. When it comes to brain health, think of DHA as the all-rounder: from mood, sleep, brain cell health, cell-to-cell communication and neuronal activity (the nerve cells that receive and output important electrical impulses throughout the body and brain), DHA is quietly working to ensure all these functions are running smoothly.
Omega-3s help you stay sharp
Like having excellent phone reception, whether out on a boat or in a tunnel, your omega-3 fats keep the lines of communication between brain cells open and clear. Cells communicate via their membranes, the outer layer of the cell made up of fatty acids, including the all-important omega-3 fatty acids.
When cell membranes are low in fat, the communication begins to break down. If you want that uninterrupted thought process, intense focus, or photographic memory (okay, maybe not quite photographic), omega-3 fats are the key to unlocking that potential.
Nervous system or calm system?
The nervous system constantly processes information and assesses the environment's safety. Around each nerve axon (the fibre that connects nerve cells, allowing them to communicate) is an insulating layer called the myelin sheath - think of it like the covering that protects electrical wires.
Omega-3 is critical in ensuring each nerve axon has enough myelin sheath to protect itself. If the myelin sheath becomes damaged, it can result in a loss of coordination, fatigue, muscle spasms, and poor vision. Omega-3 helps to support your nervous system, ensuring it’s ready to tackle whatever life throws at you.
Total recall - omega-3 for better memory
Are you finding yourself grasping for names and details more than you used to? Omega-3s might be the key to preventing those frustrating moments or forgotten names, dates, or important appointments. Research shows that omega-3 fats are foundational to memory retention, helping us recall critical details and navigate our daily lives with a little more ease.
Brain health for life
Omega-3 fats are lifelong champions of brain health from the early stages of foetal development and continue supporting brain health throughout our lives. During pregnancy, these essential fatty acids play a crucial role in brain and nervous system development and influence cognitive health. As we age, omega-3s continue their vital work by fortifying the brain’s structure, promoting cell-to-cell communication, and protecting that all-important myelin sheath around the nerves. Their ongoing support extends into adulthood; in aging, omega-3 fats help to sustain cognitive function, preserve memory, and reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline by improving blood flow to the brain.
The global elderly population is higher than ever, doubling by 2050. Maintaining cognitive health and mental faculties in old age is a priority for many people. Remaining resilient to external and internal stressors and staying cognitively “fit” requires omega-3 fats at all stages of life.
The power of omega-3 fats in supporting lifelong brain health and function is undeniable. From prenatal development to the golden years, these essential fats serve as the dietary foundation for cognitive wellbeing. Ready to experience your brain’s full potential for memory, quick wits and concentration? Make sure you’re eating plenty of omega-3 fats from flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, microalgae and fatty fish (if you include this in your diet), or consider a high-quality supplement to ensure your brain receives the nourishment and support it needs for a sharp, vibrant, and resilient life.
Stark, K.D., Van Elswyk, M.V., Higgins, M.R., Weatherford, C.A. & Salem Jr, N. (2016). Global survey of the omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid in the bloodstream of healthy adults. Progress in Lipid Research, 63:132-152. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0163782715300333
Neuroscience News. Unique omega-3 fatty acid lipid could revolutionize our understanding of brain development and aging. Written May 2023, accessed December 2023 from https://neurosciencenews.com/myelin-omega3-aging-23180/#:~:text=Findings%20indicate%20LPC%20omega%2D3,protect%20nerves%20with%20myelin%20sheaths.
Dighriri, I.M., Alsubaie, A.M., Hakami, F.M., Hamithi, D.M., Halshekh, M.M., et al. (2022). Effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on brain functions: A systematic review. Cureus, 14(10): e30091. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9641984/
Ageing and health. World Health Organization. Written October 2022, accessed December 2023 from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/ageing-and-health