Healthy Ageing with Omega 3's Brain Boosting DHA
Author: Deb Date Posted:14 November 2017
Everyone knows that a major health issue is looming – ageing. It’s sad that ageing has now become an ‘issue’ as opposed to what it should be – a natural progression of one’s life. And yet it has become something to be dreaded or feared as many societies grapple with the anticipated economic costs of caring for people with compromised cognitive health. Currently, nearly 47 million people are living with dementia worldwide and it is estimated this number will grow to over 74 million by 2030. In Australia, Healthdirect puts these figures at over 413,000 people with dementia and the leading cause of death.
This sounds depressing! My grandmother died of Alzheimers and I have always been concerned about my mother’s fate or mine. One ray of hope is that research has shown only 1% of Alzheimer's is attributable to genes whilst 50% to diet and lifestyle factors. That is something at least we have control over.
According to food for the brain, proactive steps we can take to help protect our cognitive health include some key nutritional recommendations, including eating foods rich in antioxidants, supplementing with B vitamins, keeping physically active and increasing our intake of omega 3 foods.
Brain Booster: Omega 3 Health Benefits
Omega 3 fatty acids are perhaps the most well known proactive solution in preventing cognitive decline and especially crucial due to our body’s inability to make it. The body is very poor at converting plant sources of omega 3 such as flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seed oil, into DHA and EPA and hardly any of us are eating the recommended amounts of oily fish.
Omega 3s are said to be the basic building blocks of our brain cells and is especially concentrated in the cerebral cortex, responsible for higher-order thinking. It helps facilitate the transmission of signals along nerve fibers and across synapses (the junction between nerve cells) that transmit information.
What neurological functions does DHA support?
• higher-order cognitive thinking such as problem-solving
• activities involving sustaining attention (like chess!)
• social, emotional and behaviour development
• learning and memory
• reading and speech
When DHA is in short supply, it can compromise healthy nerve cell function.
DHA could even be responsible for our evolutionary cognitive leap, from Neanderthal to early modern humans, with more advanced behaviours coinciding with an increase of aquatic food consumption (ie fish spearing!), therefore linking an increase of brain size with a richer Omega 3 diet. Quite a powerful reminder to step up our intake to keep those neurons firing!
According to 2006 Research, guidelines are in the range of 250 to 500 mg EPA + DHA per day. However, the estimated intake that people actually obtain is more like 100mg per day.
Considering that grey matter declines the older we get may mean that boosting our DHA consumption can positively affect the aging process. And supplementation is one easy step in the right direction.