Polyunsaturated fatty acids are an essential addition to a healthy diet, improving the chemical interaction of the nervous system with the brain along with regulating the blood flow and boosting the immune system.
Intensive research has gone into the function and benefits of these fatty acids, more commonly known as omega-3 due to the carbon bonding pattern found in this fat chain. Oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, char and sardines contain the best source of EPA, DPA and DHA. A different omega-3 source called ALA can be found in some nuts and seeds or in dark green leafy vegetables for vegetarian diets.
DHA is an essential ingredient to visual and neurological infant development and when taken as a supplement it can have a positive effect on the elderly, reducing many symptoms of aging. Many studies suggest an increase in omega-3 EPA and DHA supplements for those suffering from respiratory inflammation such as asthma or for those prone to allergic reactions.
These anti-inflammatory benefits also benefit patients with rheumatoid arthritis, minimising pain and stiffness in the joints, and stabilising those with diabetes 2. Surprisingly, studies have shown that cultures that have high fish consumption also show lower triglyceride levels, improved memory and learning skills, lower instances of depression, bipolar disorder and ADHD syndrome. http://bit.ly/1cCKXCZ
Last year a group of Chinese researchers compiled and published the results of n-3 PUFA on breast cancer development from over 20 global cohort studies on three continents, including Asia, Europe and the USA, in the British Medical Journal. http://bit.ly/1dIuaNz Investigating the effect of a high fish diet containing daily omega-3 intake on over 800,000 participants which included 20,000 instances of cancer, the team measured the risks of breast cancer and its relationship to omega-3 intake through blood samples.
Figures show a 14 percent deficit of cancer risk in those who had higher level of EPA and DHA in the blood and those with the lowest omega-3 levels showed the highest risk to cancer.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil also helps to maintain the nerve cells in the hippocampus, preserving the memory and keeping the brain from deteriorating with age leading to the development of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
In the January edition of Neurology (http://bit.ly/1loPLSh) Dr James Pottala, from the University of South Dakota in Sioux Falls, US discovered a 0.7% increase in overall brain size in those who doubled omega-3 intake.
The team researching the neural volume of 1,111 elderly women taking EPA and DHA over a period of eight years the team found 2.7 per cent size difference in the hippocampus area through MRI scanning. This was part of the US Women's Health Initiative Memory Study that is looking for ways to minimise the risk of memory loss and dementia in the elderly.
Whether brain size plays a part in long-term development of dementia or not is still unknown, but with defined trails on the use of omega-3 on volunteers, further information can be gained on whether these supplements can help with protecting against cognitive decline.