How do omega-3 fatty acids boost brain health?

Getting more omega-3 fatty acids into the diet is an easy way to boost brain health; cold-water fish and dietary supplements are good sources of this nutrient. Watch brain health expert Cynthia Green, PhD, explain the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
It’s not surprising that omega-3s and brain health go hand in hand. About two-thirds of your brain is composed of fats. When you digest the fat in your food, it’s broken down into fatty acid molecules of various lengths. Your brain then uses these for raw materials to assemble the special types of fat it incorporates into its cell membranes. The protective sheath that covers communicating neurons, for instance, is composed of 30 percent protein and 70 percent fat.

This is why it’s very important that we get essential fatty acids, otherwise known as the family of omega-3s and 6s, which come from foods like fish, avocado, almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, and olives, on a daily basis. They are essential because your body can’t manufacture them on its own. The reason salmon is called as brain food is because it contains this high-quality fat. (All omega-3s have numerous health benefits, but those that are found in fish are known as long-chain omega-3s, which researchers suspect may protect against coronary heart disease.) When we start eating saturated, trans, and hydrogenated fats, we aren’t nourishing our brains; we’re filling the fat cells that become weight elsewhere, on our hips, thighs, upper backs, and behind our arms. Trans fatty acids in particular, found in foods like French fries, margarine, potato chips, and anything else with partially hydrogenated oil, have been shown to disrupt communication in your brain.

Aim for at least two helpings a week of fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, mackerel, or sardines.

From The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Less Stress, Gorgeous Skin, and a Whole New You by Amy Wechsler.
Omega-3 fatty acids such as alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are found in cold-water fish and flaxseed oil. Omega-3s regulate the release of neurotransmitters and improve learning and behavioral problems. A trial showed that they also are helpful in alleviating depression.

Continue Learning about Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Get One Can of This Each Week for Better Eyes
Get One Can of This Each Week for Better Eyes
Your standard shopping run should include a can of this each week to help your eyes: tuna. According to a study of middle-aged women, eating at least...
Read More
Will eating more fish help prolong my life?
Dr. Robin Miller, MDDr. Robin Miller, MD
Eating more fish might prolong your life, thinks Robin Miller, MD. A study shows that Americans who ...
More Answers
Who should use omega-3 fatty acids?
Stacy Wiegman, PharmDStacy Wiegman, PharmD
Omega-3 is considered an essential fatty acid. Essential fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids...
More Answers
5 Ways to Improve Your Health in 60 Seconds or Less
5 Ways to Improve Your Health in 60 Seconds or Less

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.