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Brain Fuel: How Omega-3 Fatty Acids Improve Cognitive Abilities

By Julia Haimovich, Accredited Practicing Dietitian.

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Omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, are crucial for maintaining
cognitive functions. Studies show that they enhance the plasticity of neuronal networks,
increase the production of neurotransmitters, and reduce inflammation in the brain. These
effects, supported by scientific research, improve memory, attention, and learning. 1


Beneficial fatty acids, especially omega-3, play a crucial role in maintaining cognitive
functions from physiological and neurological perspectives. At the cellular level, they exert a
range of beneficial effects that can enhance cognitive abilities. 1


Omega-3 fatty acids, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA),
are vital components of cell membranes and play a key role in neurotransmission between
neurons. Scientific research indicates that omega-3 contributes to improving the plasticity of
neuronal networks, which can enhance cognitive functions like memory, attention, and
learning. 2


A systematic review published in 2022 found that participants receiving additional doses
of omega-3 fatty acids showed improvement in cognitive functions and a reduced risk of
neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease. 3


Furthermore, omega-3 fatty acids possess anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce
inflammation in the brain, often associated with worsening cognitive functions. This is
supported by studies published in “Pharmacological Review” in 2018, which demonstrated
that participants consuming more omega-3 fatty acids had lower levels of inflammatory
markers in the brain and better cognitive function. 4


At the cellular level, omega-3 fatty acids can also enhance the production of
neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which play a crucial role in mood
regulation, attention, and memory. 5


Thus, scientific research confirms that omega-3 fatty acids positively impact
cognitive functions from physiological and neurological perspectives. Their consumption can
be particularly beneficial for maintaining brain health and preventing neurological disorders.

References:

  1. Talukdar, T., Zamroziewicz, M. K., Zwilling, C. E., & Barbey, A. K. (2019). Nutrient
    biomarkers shape individual differences in functional brain connectivity: Evidence
    from omega‐3 PUFAs. Human brain mapping, 40(6), 1887-1897.
  2. Cooper, R. E., Tye, C., Kuntsi, J., Vassos, E., & Asherson, P. (2015). Omega-3
    polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation and cognition: A systematic review and
    meta-analysis. Journal of psychopharmacology, 29(7), 753-763.
  3. Dighriri IM, Alsubaie AM, Hakami FM, Hamithi DM, Alshekh MM, Khobrani FA,
    Dalak FE, Hakami AA, Alsueaadi EH, Alsaawi LS, Alshammari SF, Alqahtani AS,
    Alawi IA, Aljuaid AA, Tawhari MQ. Effects of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
    on Brain Functions: A Systematic Review. Cureus. 2022 Oct 9;14(10):e30091. doi:
    10.7759/cureus.30091. PMID: 36381743; PMCID: PMC9641984.
  4. Laye, S., Nadjar, A., Joffre, C., & Bazinet, R. P. (2018). Anti-inflammatory effects of
    omega-3 fatty acids in the brain: physiological mechanisms and relevance to
    pharmacology. Pharmacological reviews, 70(1), 12-38.
  5. Yonezawa, K., Kusumoto, Y., Kanchi, N., Kinoshita, H., Kanegae, S., Yamaguchi, N.,
    & Ozawa, H. (2020). Recent trends in mental illness and omega-3 fatty acids. Journal
    of Neural Transmission, 127, 1491-1499.
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