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How does omega-3 benefit the brain?

Not only can omega-3 fatty acids improve your memory and help to keep your brain working sharply and efficiently, they can even combat depression. Your brain is a master of reinvention. Fail to provide it with the right materials to help it repair and renew itself, and it will improvise… though the output might be less than optimal. 60% of your brain is composed of fats, and DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid), makes up almost half of them. It works with another omega-3 fatty acid, EPA, to optimise communication between brain cells. DHA keeps cell membranes flexible, while EPA helps blood flow and puts the brakes on inflammation. You can rely on them to keep your brain working quickly, sharply and efficiently – assuming you’re getting enough of them.

Turn back the clock

Research shows that children whose mothers take omega-3 supplements during pregnancy tend to be more intelligent and have better social skills. They’re also less likely to develop ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), autism or cerebral palsy. But it’s never too late! Fish oil supplements appear to improve the memory capacity of young adults by up to a quarter, while DHA supplements can give the learning and memory skills of older adults a boost equivalent to dropping three years in age!   About 850,000 people in the UK have been diagnosed with dementia, with numbers set to rise to over 1 million by 2025. But those with the highest DHA levels are 47% less likely to develop dementia and 39% less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Beat the blues

One in five adults in the UK currently experience anxiety or depression, with 8% of us living with both. Omega-3 consumption has been associated with the growth of grey matter in areas of the brain associated with emotion regulation, so conversely the suggestion is that dietary deficiencies may contribute to the development of mood disorders. Researchers say supplements could help. People who consume omega-3 regularly are less likely to be depressed, and EPA supplements tend to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression. In fact, they could be an alternative to antidepressants.

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