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article imageOmega fatty acids contribute to brain health

By Tim Sandle     Jun 11, 2017 in Health
Many studies indicate the importance of omega fatty acids and the body of evidence has recently been expanded upon by two new studies, looking at polyunsaturated fatty acids and the structure of the brain.
The focus of the new research is with polyunsaturated fatty acids and age-related cognitive decline. With the studies, two fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6 were examined. The findings were generally positive although further study is required.
A common hypothesis with studies looking at omega fatty acids is whether increasing dietary intake of these substances helps avert, or slowdown, the mental decline associated with aging and memory.
Omega fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids (fatty acids that contain more than one double bond in their backbone). With the two types called out for the recent studies: omega-3 and omega-6, omega-3 has been more widely researched. The three types of omega-3 fatty acids are involved in human physiology. These are: α-linolenic acid (ALA) (found in plant oils), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (both commonly found in marine oils). Omega-6’s include linoleic acid (abundant in many nuts, fatty seeds like flax seeds, hemp seeds, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds).
With the recent studies, scientists looked at two areas of the brain. The first study was from University of Illinois and it examined the frontoparietal network, the part of the brain where so-termed “fluid intelligence” is processed. This area is important for memory formation and it is notable that many patients with Alzhiemer’s disease show deficits in this area.
With the second study, researchers from the same university analyzed white matter size and structure in the fornix and compared it to a proper balance of omega-3 and omega-6 acids in the blood. The participants were adults aged 65 to 75 years old.
Both studies showed a correlation between size and performance in the fornix and the ratio of fatty acids in the blood. Based on this the researchers think that diet needs to considered as a contributor to healthy brain function and to resist aging, although further research is needed. The research adds weight to nutrition being recognized for its ability to help prevent and protect against disease.
Study one was published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience. The title is “Determinants of fluid intelligence in healthy aging: Omega-3 Polyunsaturated fatty acid status and frontoparietal cortex structure.”
Study two is published in the journal Aging and Disease. This study is headed “Predictors of memory in healthy aging: Polyunsaturated fatty acid balance and fornix white matter integrity.”
More about fatty acids, Omega3, omega6, Brain
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