I am not jumping on the Dr. Seuss bandwagon, I promise! But when I ran across this study on omega-3 fatty acids, the aging brain and memory, the following lines from Oh! The Places You’ll Go came to mind:
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” — Oh! The Places You’ll Go. Dr. Seuss
Damn our aging brains, right?! Coupled with waning hormones, daily stressors and even weight gain, and many women of ‘a certain age’ are left with a veritable mindless meld cognitive decline and memory issues that only seem to worsen over time. And there’s nothing that can be done.
Think again. Researchers say that low levels of omega-3 fatty acids may accelerate the rate at which our brains age and even cause lapses in thinking and memory. This latest bit of information comes from an analysis of from 1,575 women participating in the ongoing Framingham Study. Women in this portion of the study (who were, on average 67 years old) had their blood drawn and examined for concentrations of omega-3s in red blood cells, underwent brain MRI, and participated in battery of cognitive-psychological tests. The findings? Those with the lowest levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) had lower brain volumes compared to women who had higher levels. According to one of the lead study investigators. Dr. Zaldy Tan, this distinction “is equivalent to about two years of structural brain aging.” Moreover, lower DHA and ecosapentoic acid (EHA) levels were also linked to declines in the ability to solve problems, multitask and think abstractly – all of which are tied to visual memory and so-called “executive function,” a concept that refers to the ability to connect past experiences with present action. Humans use executive function to plan, organize, strategize, focus and remember details and manage time.
These findings are critical because they add to a growing body of research that show that omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain health, possibly due to their positive actions on blood vessels in the central nervous system. In fact, clogged arteries and stroke are associated higher risks of dementia and cognitive decline, so the benefits of omega-3s may relate to how they can help to lower blood pressure, reduce stroke risk, decrease inflammation and reduce blood fat levels. The ongoing question is always diet versus supplements. And while diet is sure to improve the body’s concentrations of omega-3s, it can be difficult to maintain the three times a week regimen.
Personally? I have gravitate towards Krill oil because it doesn’t cause the ‘burps’ and is environmentally friendly. But as a dietician friend recently pointed out to me, the levels of DHA in Krill oil are relatively low, meaning that if I want to slow down my aging brain, I may need to find sources of DHA to supplement what I’m already taking (e.g. from seaweed or coldwater fish).
Dr. Seuss made it abundantly clear that we have choices and it is those choices that will steer the direction we go. Want to save your brain? It looks as though the addition of omega-3s might help.