Human studies suggest that an adequate dietary intake of Omega-3 Fatty Acids can slow the age-related cognitive decline and may also protect against the risk of senile dementia.
However, despite the many studies in this domain, the beneficial impact of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on brain function has only recently been linked to specific mechanisms.
This review examines the hypothesis that an optimal brain DHA status, conferred by an adequate Omega-3 Fatty Acids intake, limits age-related brain damage by optimizing endogenous brain repair mechanisms.
An analysis of the abundant literature by researchers at the Unit of Lipid Nutrition and Regulation of Brain Functions, NuReLiCe, INRA, France (1), indicates that
an adequate amount of DHA (the main Omega-3 Fatty Acid) in cell membranes in the brain may limit the impact of stress, an important age-aggravating factor, and influences the neuronal and astroglial functions that govern and protect synaptic transmission
This transmission, particularly glutamatergic neurotransmission in the hippocampus, underlies memory formation. The brain DHA status also influences neurogenesis, nested in the hippocampus, which helps maintain cognitive function throughout life.
Although there are still gaps in our knowledge of the way Omega-3 Fatty Acids act, the mechanistic studies reviewed here indicate that Omega-3 Fatty Acids may be a promising tool for preventing age-related brain deterioration.
Additional Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Many different health benefits are attributed to the versatile omega-3 fatty acids(2). Various studies have shown that they can help:
1 Reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
2 Improve retinal and brain development
3 Modulate some autoimmune diseases (such as lupus and some kidney disorders)
4 Reduce the risk of breast, colon, and prostate cancer
5 Reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
6 Alleviate mild hypertension (high blood pressure)
7 Moderate Crohn's disease (a chronic inflammation of the intestinal wall)
Denis I, Potier B, Vancassel S, Heberden C, Lavialle M. Omega-3 fatty acids and brain resistance to ageing and stress: Body of evidence and possible mechanisms. Ageing Res Rev. 2013 Feb 6;12(2):579-594. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2013.01.007.
Connor WE. Importance of n-3 fatty acids in health and disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jan;71(1 Suppl):171S-5S.
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