Brain food basics

Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon help strengthen the connections between brain cells involved in memory.

What is it about omega-3s in fish oil that is so good for your brain?

We’ve all heard that eating fish is good for our brains and memory. But what is it about DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish, that makes our memory sharper?

Researchers at the University of Alberta have discovered a possible explanation and published their results in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.

Principal investigator Yves Sauve and his team discovered that mice fed a high-DHA diet had 30 percent higher levels of DHA in the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in memory formation, as compared to those on a regular, healthy diet.

“We wanted to find out how fish intake improves memory,” says Sauve in a press release from the University.

“What we discovered is that memory cells in the hippocampus could communicate better with each other and better relay messages when DHA levels in that region of the brain were higher. This could explain why memory improves on a high-DHA diet.”

DHA supplementation facilitates synaptic plasticity, the ability of the neurons in your brain to “learn” from experience and therefore change their response to certain stimuli. They communicate more efficiently.

Supplementing your diet with DHA, such as increasing fish intake or taking supplements, could prevent declining DHA levels in the brain as we age, says Sauve.

In the blog, Thorin Klosowski talks about 4 essential things for a brain-healthy diet:

  • Glucose: The brain draws nearly all its energy from glucose. And it needs a consistent supply to stay sharp.
  • Fatty Acids: Fats like omega-3 and omega-6 may help strengthen the synapses in your brain related to memory.
  • Amino Acids: Amino acids come from protein-rich foods and help connect the neurotransmitters which are essential for keeping your brain sharp. These neurotransmitters include: dopamine for proper immune and nervous system function. Norepinephrine for alertness and concentration. Serotonin for mood, sleep, memory and learning. Acetylcholine for storage and recall of memory.
  • Antioxidants: Antioxidants like you find in tea or vegetables help regulate the oxidative stress that destroys brain cells. The stress is caused when your body is converting glucose to energy and extra oxygen is created called free radicals. Antioxidants block them so your brain doesn’t have to work as hard.

University of Alberta Press release




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