What is the importance of omega 3 fatty acids? Should omega 3 fatty acids be supplemented in a regular diet? How does an omega 3 fatty acid deficiency affect the brain? The New York Times has reported that a new study links low blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with smaller brain volume and poorer performance on tests of mental acuity, even in people without apparent dementia. The article can be found here.
“People in the lowest one-quarter for omega-3 levels had significantly lower total cerebral brain volume than those in the highest one-quarter, even after adjusting for age, body mass index, smoking and other factors. They also performed significantly worse on tests of visual memory, executive function and abstract memory than those in the highest one-quarter. Few in the study were taking omega-3 supplements, Dr. Tan said. The main reason that some had higher blood levels of omega-3’s was that they ate more fatty fish.”
The standard American diet does not contain enough Omega 3 fatty acids. What foods are Omega 3’s found in?
Fatty Fish: Salmon. Tuna. Sardines. Mackerel. Anchovies. Herring.
Nuts and Seeds: Flaxseeds. Chia seeds. Walnuts. Pecans. Pine nuts.
Our diets are full of Omega 6’s (trans fats) and deficient in Omega 3 fatty acids. What is the difference between Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s? “Omega-3 and omega-6 are types of essential fatty acids – meaning we cannot make them on our own and have to obtain them from our diet. Both are polyunsaturated fatty acids that differ from each other in their chemical structure. In modern diets, there are few sources of omega-3 fatty acids, mainly the fat of cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, black cod, and bluefish. There are two critical omega-3 fatty acids, (eicosapentaenoic acid, called EPA and docosahexaenoic or DHA), that the body needs. Vegetarian sources, such as walnuts and flaxseeds contain a precursor omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid called ALA) that the body must convert to EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA are the building blocks for hormones that control immune function, blood clotting, and cell growth as well as components of cell membranes.” source
“By contrast, sources of omega-6 fatty acids are numerous in modern diets. Refined vegetable oils, such as soy oil, are used in most of the snack foods, cookies, crackers, and sweets in the American diet as well as in fast food. Soybean oil alone is now so ubiquitous in fast foods and processed foods that an astounding 20 percent of the calories in the American diet are estimated to come from this single source. Those from omega-6 fatty acids tend to increase inflammation (an important component of the immune response), blood clotting, and cell proliferation, while those from omega-3 fatty acids decrease those functions. Both families of hormones must be in balance to maintain optimum health.” source
The imbalance between the two can lead to many health issues. Any health complaint triggered by inflammation in the body can be helped by adding omega 3’s and reducing Omega 6’s. The great amount of unhealthy fats in our kitchens and pantries may explain the rise of such diseases as asthma, coronary heart disease, many forms of cancer, auto immune and neurodegenerative diseases. Increase your Omega 3 fatty acid consumption by eating fatty fish and nuts and seeds. You may also take fish oil or fermented cod liver oil to improve your Omega 3 fatty acid levels. At the same time decrease your consumption of vegetable oils, fast food, and processed snacks.
Take you Cod Liver Oil daily and you will have improved energy levels and mental clarity. That is why I call fish oil a BRAIN FOOD. It really helps my children and husband focus and stay on task for school and and work. Read more about the Health Benefits of Fish Oil here.
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