Omega-3s Associated with Improved Brain Structure, Cognition in Middle Age, Finds Study

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Consuming cold-water fish and other foods with omega-3 fatty acids may conserve brain health and improve cognition in middle age, a new evidence suggests.

According to a research undertaken on healthy study volunteers in their 40s and 50s, presence of some omega-3s in red blood cells wad associated with better brain structure and cognitive function. The findings of the study are published in the online edition of Neurology.

“Meanwhile, earlier studies have looked at this relation in older populations. The contribution of the new study is, if a diet includes some omega-3 fatty acids at younger ages, the brain is receiving protection from most indicators of brain aging that are observed at middle age,” stated the lead author of the study.

For the study, average age of volunteers was 46. Researchers looked at the association of concentration of red blood cell omega-3 fatty acid with MRI and cognitive signs of brain aging. The effect of omega-3 red blood concentrations was also studied in volunteers who carried APOE4 – a genetic mutation associated with high risk of Alzheimer’s.

Researchers used a method called gas chromatography to measure eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) concentrations in red blood cells. The omega-3 index was calculated as EPA plus DHA.

“Omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA are key micronutrients that improve and protect the brain,” stated the co-author of the study.

Importantly, the study is the first to observe the effect in a younger population. Nonetheless, more studies in this age group are needed to validate this.

For the study, participants were divided based on very little omega-3 red blood cell concentration and at least a little and more. The worst outcomes were observed in individuals with least consumption of omega-3s.

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