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March 6, 2012 at 12:56 PMComments: 1 Faves: 0

Low Levels of Omega 3 Can Actually Shrink Your Brain!

By Brad Ter Haar More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the A Longer Life Blog Series

Your deepest thoughts, your most treasured memories, your weirdest dreams, and your unique personality exist thanks to the body’s most complex organ, the brain. Naturally, protecting the brain and its vast number of neurons swirling about inside it is essential for its functioning and mental dexterity.  

A new study was just released by UCLA researchers, with important findings regarding your brain’s health. More than 1,500 adults participated in the study, and key differences existed between those with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood, as compared to those with low blood levels of omega-3s.

The development of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia were associated with low levels of omega-3s. It should be noted, however, that this was only a correlation, so it is not yet conclusive that eating more foods with high omega-3 counts will curb the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

The part of the study I found equally shocking and interesting, was to learn that brain size was associated with consumption of omega-3s, as those with low levels of omega-3 fatty acids tended to have smaller brain volume than people with high levels of omega-3s in their bloodstream. Although your brain normally shrinks as you age, you can help slow down the process by incorporating more foods rich in omega-3s in your diet.

The study also discovered that people who ate high amounts of omega-3s, scored higher on cognitive and memory tests, and tests measuring abstract reasoning and problem solving skills, than did those consuming low levels of omega-3s.

In confirming the results of previous studies, the UCLA study also found that omega-3s contributed to a reduced risk for stroke and heart problems.

Knowing the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids probably has you wondering, which foods are high in omega-3s? For starters, try eating more fish, one of the best sources of omega-3s, as you likely already know. Other foods to consider include kale, spinach, flaxseed, soybeans, and walnuts, to just name a few.

Now before you run to the market and purchase some freshly-caught fish or visit the seafood section of your favorite grocery store, it’s necessary to know which types of fish you should look for, and which should be avoided.

Fish. It’s What’s for Dinner!

 These fish are rich in omega-3s, and are excellent choices for keeping your brain sharp:

  • Salmon: Try finding salmon that’s wild-caught, from Alaska. Alaska fisheries are closely monitored, and biologists carefully maintain the water quality where the salmon are caught. Even by eating only 2 ounces of Alaskan, wild-caught salmon, your body will get 1,210 mg of omega-3s. That’s a lot of omega-3, especially if you’re like me, and enjoy a couple salmon burgers for dinner!
  • Albacore tuna: Many tuna contain high levels of mercury, so try searching for albacore tuna, caught in the U.S. or U.K., that is listed as either “troll caught” or “pole caught.” These tunas, caught in colder, northern waters, have low levels of mercury and high omega-3 counts.
  • Sardines: Often found on lists of superfoods, the sardine is inexpensive and great for your health. Purchase Pacific, wild-caught sardines, which pack more omega-3s (almost 2000 mg!) per 3-ounce serving  than nearly all other fish.

The list above provides just several examples of fish you should include in your diet, there are many other options out there, just be sure to do your research!

There’s Something Fishy Going On!

While increasing your fish intake is beneficial to your health with all those omega-3s they have, certain types of fish should be avoided:

  • Grouper:  These gigantic fish contain very high levels of mercury, which is why many watchdog organizations, including the Environmental Defense Fund, have issued a consumption advisory for the grouper.
  • Farmed Salmon: As listed above, Alaskan, wild-caught salmon is loaded with omega-3s, and is great for your health. Farmed salmon, on the other hand, are almost always raised in tightly packed pens, often rife with diseases and parasites, and tend to have high levels of PCBs (man-made, organic pollutants).
  • Orange Roughy: These fish look similar to catfish, but should be avoided. Since the Orange roughy lives as long as 100 years, they contain high levels of mercury, and should not be consumed.

Thanks for reading, and please let me know your thoughts! And remember, fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids and great for your health, but be sure to avoid fish with high mercury counts.


Photo Credit:

Robtrent, Le Grace Studio, and Captain Tenneal

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1 Comment

  • What? That's the first time I've heard this about Orange Roughy! Why do restaurants and grocery stores offer this fish for purchase if it's that bad for you? It's been one of my favorites because it doesn't taste and smell sooo fishy!

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