Research has found that the higher a person’s Omega-3 Index was in their blood, the more white matter there was in their brain, and the better they performed on cognitive tests that predict less risk for dementia
- In older people in good health, levels of omega-3 predicted both their brain volume and their cognitive abilities on tests of memory and speed of thinking
- The Omega-3 Index, which should be above 8%, also predicts risk for heart disease and developmental problems in babies from measures taken in women both before and during pregnancy
- The intake of marine foods has continued to decline over the past hundred years and countries with the lowest intake have the most risk for depression , dementia and suicide ; even the rate of homicide is linked to a country’s omega-3 intake according to World Health Organisation data
FOOD FOR THE BRAIN (Oct. 30, 2023)— Multiple studies, including a new study by psychologists at the Linda Loma University in California and published in the journal Brain Sciences , have found that the higher a person’s Omega-3 Index was in their blood, the more white matter there was in their brain, and the better they performed on cognitive tests that predict less risk for dementia.
Research also shows that the test can predict brain size and intelligence.
The study in California not only found that the Omega-3 Index was a clear predictor of cognitive function and dementia risk (the higher the Omega-3 Index, the lower the risk), it also found that in older people in good health, levels of omega-3 predicted both their brain volume and their cognitive abilities on tests of memory and speed of thinking (the higher the level the bigger their brain volume and the faster their thinking).
“This confirms previous growing evidence that a person’s Omega-3 Index, which is a composite score of the two main brain-friendly omega-3 fats found in seafood, called EPA and DHA, predicts both the risk for depression and dementia , and poorer reading ability, lower IQ, worse memory, difficulty sleeping, aggression and emotional instability in children – hallmarks of ADHD.” says Patrick Holford, founder of FoodfortheBrain.org.
The Omega-3 Index, which should be above 8%, also predicts risk for heart disease and developmental problems in babies from measures taken in women both before and during pregnancy. “Pregnant women with a higher Omega-3 Index have a much lower risk of having a baby with developmental problems, according to research at Imperial College London from the Institute of Brain Chemistry at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital campus.” adds Holford. “It is wise for a woman considering pregnancy to check her Omega-3 Index and ensure it is above 8%.”
FoodfortheBrain.org offers a free Cognitive Function Test and a questionnaire to complete about your diet and lifestyle that then identifies the key changes that lower risk of dementia.
“We have tested over 400,000 people and our goal is now to track people’s blood levels of omega-3 with cognitive function to work out exactly what the optimal intake of omega-3 for brain health actually is.” explains Holford.
While there is a type of omega-3 fat (called linolenic acid) in green leafy vegetables, as well as walnuts, chia and flax seeds, its conversion into EPA and DHA is poor. The ability to convert plant-based omega-3 into EPA, which is associated with better mood, and DHA which is the main brain-building omega-3 fat linked to lower risk of age-related memory decline and dementia, varies from person to person. The charity hope to find out whether other factors such as age, sex, alcohol consumption and dietary habits, other than seafood intake, make a difference to the ability to make the brain-friendly types of omega-3 measured in this test.
The intake of marine foods has continued to decline over the past hundred years and countries with the lowest intake have the most risk for depression , dementia and suicide . Even the rate of homicide is linked to a country’s omega-3 intake according to World Health Organisation data.
“Less than 5 per cent of children achieve the basic government guidelines for eating fish and omega-3 however we really don’t know if even these guidelines are optimal for mental heath,” says Holford. “The more people who are willing to take this inexpensive test and complete a short questionnaire about their dietary habits, plus take a 10 minute online Cognitive Function Test, the more effectively we can discover what an optimal intake of omega-3 for brain health and the prevention of dementia later in life is. We are calling for members of the public to become citizen scientists in this way.”
Check your omega-3 status along with vitamin D (another essential nutrient for brain health)
Why is it Important to Focus on Your Omega-3 Levels vs Intake?
The Omega-3 Index is a blood test that measures the amount of EPA and DHA in red blood cell (RBC) membranes and is expressed as a percent of total RBC fatty acids. It is a long-term and stable marker of omega-3 status, and it reflects tissue levels of EPA+DHA.
An Omega-3 Index of over 8% is associated with the lowest risk of death from heart disease and below 4% with the highest.
While individual levels of omega-3s vary across the globe, most countries and regions have levels that are considered low to very low. Testing is essential, as there is a large amount of variability in the omega-3 status for different people with the same intake amount (similar to vitamin D!). For example, a GrassrootsHealth analysis showed that the range of response with 1000 mg of EPA+DHA per day was 5.7% to 10.2%. Therefore, it is recommended that individuals measure their Omega-3 Index and determine a personalized dose using the Omega-3 calculator to achieve a minimum Omega-3 Index of 8%.
Make Sure You Are Getting Enough of the Right Nutrients
Create your custom home blood spot kit to help determine if you are getting enough of the following nutrients shown to benefit overall health, along with other measures, including:
- Vitamin D
- Omega-3 Index plus AA:EPA Ratio
- Magnesium (plus Zinc, Copper, Selenium, Lead, Cadmium & Mercury)
- Type 1 Diabetes Autoantibodies
Enroll and test your levels today, learn what steps to take to improve your status of omega-3s, vitamin D and other nutrients and blood markers, and take action! By enrolling in the GrassrootsHealth projects, you are not only contributing valuable information to everyone, you are also gaining knowledge about how you could improve your own health through measuring and tracking your nutrient status, and educating yourself on how to improve it.