Omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, protect the joints, the immune system, heart and eyes. And from today, we also know that they protect the brain and improve cognitive function, also in young people, especially if they are of the EPA type, or eicosapentaenoic acid. This is what emerges from a very recent scientific research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by an English team (Patan et a, Am J Clin Nutr, 2021).
Fatty acids and the brain
Thanks to previous studies it was already known that omega 3 fatty acids are capable of supporting cognitive function throughout the entire human life. However, until now research has focused on the action of DHA only, a type of omega 3, as it is particularly abundant in the tissues of the central nervous system. DHA, or Docosahexaenoic acid, is found in salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines.
Are all fatty acids the same? The role of EPA, an omega 3
In the research in question, the scientists tried to understand whether the omega 3 fatty acid EPA could also have a beneficial effect on cognitive function. To understand this, 337 volunteers, aged between 25 and 49, all in good health, were recruited. The study participants were divided into three groups. The first group was asked to take capsules containing 900 mg of DHA and 270 mg of EPA every day for 26 weeks. The second group was asked to take capsules containing 900 mg of EPA and 360 mg of DHA every day for 26 weeks, and finally the third group took a placebo. The volunteers then underwent tests to evaluate memory and cognitive function.
Omega 3 EPAs support the brain more than other fatty acids
What emerged was that the group that had taken the capsules containing the highest amounts of DHA only had an improvement on a memory test. In fact, the recognition times of words learned by heart were improved. But no other beneficial effects were observed, which were seen on the contrary in the group that took the most EPA. In this case, in fact, a generalized improvement in cognitive functions was observed, both in terms of learning and response speed and accuracy. In all memo texts, those who took the most EPA performed better than those who took the most DHA.
Where you can find EPA omega 3 fatty acids
Therefore, EPA fatty acids, even when accumulated in the brain in low quantities, have a greater effect than the more studied and present DHA in supporting and improving cognitive function in young people. EPA is found in fish such as salmon, cod, mackerel and sardines but even more in the oil obtained from these fish, where it is found in quantities equal to or slightly less than DHA. There are also supplements with a majority of EPAs on the market. In this case, however, always ask your doctor for advice before starting to take them to avoid interactions with other drugs.