Eating blue fish protects the brain, making it more agile, more capable of abstract and complex reasoning and improving memory. All this is not observed only in older people but also in young people and this is also the great result that emerges from the very recent research published in the prestigious journal Neurology® by a group of American scholars from the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio (Satizabal et al, Neurology, 2022).
The benefits of omega 3 on the brain
Previous studies had already shown that the intake of omega 3 fatty acids can improve cognitive function in the elderly. Instead, the new research we are talking about today has the merit of having observed this link even in the younger population. Not only that, the study made it possible to underline that it is enough to eat, even in small quantities, some food containing omega 3 fatty acids to observe already important benefits. Benefits that are also observed in those with genetic mutations that make the person at higher risk of developing degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, but let's try to understand better.
Omega 3 improves memory and cognitive function even in young people
The researchers recruited 2183 people, average age 46 and in good health. Volunteers underwent nuclear magnetic resonance imaging to assess levels of omega-three fatty acids and other medical examinations to analyze certain brain age markers, such as the volume of the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that plays an essential role in memory and learning ability. What emerged was that those with higher omega-3 levels also had larger volumes of hippocampus. Not only that, higher levels of omega 3 are associated with a greater capacity for abstract reasoning and understanding of complex concepts using logic. In general, the higher the number of omega 3s present, the greater are the observed benefits. However, benefits were also observed in those who had low levels of omega 3, but still present, compared to those who had almost no omega 3 circulating. Not only that, the researchers also analyzed the case of some carriers of a genetic mutation associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's, since this genetic variation leads to a reduction in cerebral blood flow. Well, among those who had this mutation it was observed that those with higher levels of circulating omega 3 also had a lower risk of having blood vessel disease.
Research has not understood the reasons why omega 3 fatty acids can be protective in the brain, even in young people. It is believed that these properties have to do with the anti-inflammatory action of omega 3 fatty acids and with the fact that these fatty acids are involved in the formation of the cell membrane of neurons. In case of lack of these fatty acids these are replaced with other substances making the neurons more unstable. These are still assumptions and more work will have to be done to understand the action of omega 3 fatty acids. At the moment, however, we have evidence that, even in small quantities, eating foods containing omega 3 fatty acids immediately benefits the brain. Omega 3 fatty acids, mainly of the DHA and EPA type analyzed in this study, are found in some fish, such as sardines, mackerel, herring, cod, tuna, salmon, but also in krill and some algae such as nori and kombu.