I was recently researching the effects of fish oil
on brain health after I found a study that linked decreased
hostility to essential fatty acid levels. The power of how our lifestyle choices
impact our brain health can be comforting in a world of doom-and-gloom and
In this blog, I review some recent POSITIVE studies that
provide you with some tips on what you can do to keep your brain healthy.
This Is Your Brain…On Fish Oil
The impact of consuming good sources of essential
fatty acids for brain health makes sense to me, as the human brain is nearly
60% fat. The following 2009 article does a great job explaining this connection:
We’ve learned in recent
years that fatty acids are among the most crucial molecules that determine your
brain’s integrity and ability to perform. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are
required for maintenance of optimal health but they can not synthesized by the
body and must be obtained from dietary sources. Clinical observation studies
has related imbalance dietary intake of fatty acids to impaired brain
performance and diseases. Most of the brain growth is completed by 5-6 years of
age. The EFAs, particularly the omega-3 fatty acids, are important for brain
development during both the fetal and postnatal period. Dietary decosahexaenoic
acid (DHA) is needed for the optimum functional maturation of the retina and
visual cortex, with visual acuity and mental development seemingly improved by
extra DHA. Beyond their important role in building the brain structure, EFAs,
as messengers, are involved in the synthesis and functions of brain
neurotransmitters, and in the molecules of the immune system. Neuronal membranes
contain phospholipid pools that are the reservoirs for the synthesis of
specific lipid messengers on neuronal stimulation or injury. These messengers
in turn participate in signaling cascades that can either promote neuronal
injury or neuroprotection. The goal of this review is to give a new
understanding of how EFAs determine our brain’s integrity and performance, and
to recall the neuropsychiatric disorders that may be influenced by them. As we
further unlock the mystery of how fatty acids affect the brain and better
understand the brain’s critical dependence on specific EFAs, correct intake of
the appropriate diet or supplements becomes one of the tasks we undertake in
pursuit of optimal wellness. (1)
Another article supported this positive effect on
the brain with the intake of omega-3 fatty acids related to evolution and
changes in dietary patterns:
brains in humanoids are associated with the development of cooking skills,
access to food, energy savings and upright walking and running136;
all of these features require coordination with cognitive strategies that are
centred in successful feeding. Dietary consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is
one of the best-studied interactions between food and brain evolution.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in cell
membranes in the brain137; however, the human body is not efficient
at synthesizing DHA, so we are largely dependent on dietary DHA138. (2)
This connection between healthy fat and brain health
may explain why in a recent
retrospective, cohort study, “Being
underweight in middle age and old age carries an increased risk of dementia
over two decades. Our results contradict the hypothesis that obesity in middle
age could increase the risk of dementia in old age. The reasons for and public
health consequences of these findings need further investigation.” (3) Did
they just not have enough “fat” reserve for brain health? After all, low cholesterol
is linked to dementia. (4) This can be spun positively by making sure you are
getting enough healthy fats in your diet to fuel your brain.
1: Consider adding low mercury fish to your diet or supplementing with a good
quality fish oil. Also, consume organic healthy fats, such as avocados, olive
oil, and nuts and seeds. Why organic? Pesticides aren’t good for the brain!
2. More (Than) Fishy Brain
health can be helped with more than fish oil. One recent study found a
link between leafy green intake and brain health:
A single serving of leafy
green vegetables each day may help keep dementia away, new research suggests.
Researchers evaluated the eating habits and mental ability of more than 950
older adults for an average of five years.Those who consumed one or two servings of foods such as spinach, kale,
mustard greens and/or collards daily experienced slower mental deterioration
than those who ate no leafy greens at all, the study found. (5)
2: Eat your leafy greens.
3. The Brain Power
In another study, it was reported
that phosphitdylserine could support brain health in a variety of ways.
Exogenous PS (300-800
mg/d) is absorbed efficiently in humans, crosses the blood-brain barrier, and
safely slows, halts, or reverses biochemical alterations and structural
deterioration in nerve cells. It supports human cognitive functions, including
the formation of short-term memory, the consolidation of long-term memory, the
ability to create new memories, the ability to retrieve memories, the ability
to learn and recall information, the ability to focus attention and
concentrate, the ability to reason and solve problems, language skills, and the
ability to communicate. It also supports locomotor functions, especially rapid
reactions and reflexes. (6)
3: If you aren’t a big fan of bovine brain and organ meat, you could try
supplementing PS from a reputable source.
Quick Brain Tips:
Exercise has been shown to support brain function and modulate BDNF, brain
derived neurotrophic factor (doesn’t that just sound brain happy!).
Sugar is brain harmful, so substitute for healthy foods, such as berries which contain
polyphenols to protect the brain!
week, I’m going to review some more brain healthy studies and the link to
(1) Chang CY, Ke DS, Chen JY. Essential fatty acids
and human brain. Acta Neurol Taiwan.
(2) Gómez-Pinilla F. Brain foods: the effects of
nutrients on brain function. Nature reviews Neuroscience.
(3) Qizilbash N, et al. BMI and risk of dementia in
two million people over two decades: a retrospective cohort study. The Lancet: Diabetes & Endocrinology.
June 2015; 3(6): 431-436.
(4) Wenner Moyer M. It’s Not Dementia, It’s Your Heart
Medication: Cholesterol Drugs and Memory: Why cholesterol drugs might affect
memory. Scientific American. August 10, 2010.
(5) Mozes, A. Lots of Leafy Greens Might Shield
Aging Brains, Study Finds. Vitamin K thought to slow deterioration. Health Day.
March 30, 2015
Glade M, Smith K. Phosphatidylserine and the human brain.Nutrition. 2015 Jun;31(6):781-786. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2014.10.014.
Epub 2014 Nov 4.
M1, Ranjbar A, Shadnia S, Nikfar S, Rezaie A. Pesticides and oxidative stress:
a review. Med Sci Monit. 2004 Jun;10(6):RA141-7
BD1, Seth V, Ahmed RS. Pesticide-induced oxidative stress: perspectives and
trends. Rev Environ Health. 2001 Jan-Mar;16(1):1-40.
S. Lifestyle Intervention Slows Cognitive Decline in Randomized Trial. Medscape
Medical News > Neurology. March 11, 2015.
T, Lehtisalo J, Solomon A, Levalahti E, Ahtiluoto S, Antikainen R, Backman, L,
et a.l. 2 year multidomain intervention of diet, exercise, cognitive training,
and vascular risk monitoring versus control to prevent cognitive decline in
at-risk elderly people (FINGER): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. March
11, 2015. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60461-5
la Monte SM, Wands JR. Alzheimer’s Disease Is Type 3 Diabetes-Evidence
Reviewed. Journal of diabetes science and technology (Online).
Daily. Eating berries may activate the brain’s natural housekeeper for healthy
aging. Science Daily.com. August 24,