There have been many studies which have looked at the effect of Omega-3 (Fish oil) on the brains of older individuals in hopes of reversing failing memory or preventing further memory loss. Many of these have been very promising. A more exciting recent study just published in the Journal PLOS One on October 3rd found that Omega-3 oils can also improve the working memory of young adults between 18 and 25.
We normally assume that young adults between 18 and 25 are at the peak of their mental capabilities, it is only downhill from there (as I’ve seen over several decades). What this study found though is that the working mental abilities of these people at their peak can be improved over their baseline.
The amount of improvement they experienced correlated with the amount of omega-3 in their blood plasma and it also correlated with the amount of omega-3 in their plasma before they began the 6 month study. So in theory, up to a level, the more omega-3 you consume, they better your working memory.
The test they used to measure this is called the “n-back test” This is where you are shown a sequence of pictures, letters, words, etc. and have to respond (click a button) when the current picture is the same as a picture you were shown n- pictures before. Here is a simple example where you click on the picture when it matches the picture 2 before. http://cognitivefun.net/test/4 so it may show a bird, ball, bike, cake, bird, cake. So when it showed the cake the second time you click on the picture. It gets challenging after a while.
So what does this mean to you and I?
- If you are expecting, get plenty of fish oil. That developing baby is going to take what it needs, and it needs lots of omega-3 oils. If it isn’t in your diet it will take it from your stores – which is the mothers brain. This is suspected to be one of the main causes of the postpartum blues.
- Make sure your children are getting a high quality fish oil from a very early age onwards. I seriously doubt a typical US child or teenager can get the recommended amount of fish oil from their diet – and no, fried fish sticks don’t count. It needs to be fresh cold water fish like salmon. So have them supplement as soon as they start solid foods.
- For young adults and adults, keep it up. Even if you grew up on McDonalds and pizza you can start giving your brain what it has been needing – you’ll feel smarter for that.
- If you are starting to experience more and more senior moments, well start on the fish oil. I can’t say it will prevent or reverse dementia or alzheimer’s, but it will surely help.