Scientists were hoping to learn exactly how omega-3 fats boost memory when they undertook the latest research project published in the Public Library of Science (PLoS). But they were unable to solve the mystery. They did find, however, that these essential fats have clear effects on the short-term memory of healthy adults – a positive effect.
According to the study from University of Pittsburgh researchers, people who are at the peak of their lives, health-wise, can reap significant brain-enhancing benefits from supplementing with omega 3 fats found in fish oil.
For the research, study participants who were about 22 years old were given fish oil supplements for a period of six months. The supplements contained 750 mg of DHA and 930 mg of EPA each day. Their blood was tested for omega-3 presence both before and after the supplementation period. Then, they were put through tests to measure their memory and cognition.
After the supplementation period, the participants did better on the tests—23% better in fact. The results were particularly improved in the area of short-term memory. But scientists still don’t know why.
Brain scans done on the participants revealed no changes in dopamine levels in the striatum, as scientists were hoping. Instead, the blood levels of DHA and EPA were boosted, but not within the striata in the brain.
Researchers think that perhaps it’s the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s that are responsible for the improved cognition, or perhaps brain power is boosted by increased nerve signal strength in the brain cells. But, these are all guesses. Either way, omega 3’s have been shown to rest among the numerous foods that improve memory.
Scientists have known for some time that omega-3 fats had positive effects on brain power—improving memory and focus, while decreasing the risk of psychosis in schizophrenics, increasing the effectiveness of antidepressants, and even helping those with attention deficit disorder regain mental clarity. The powerful fats are also effective in preventing some types of cancer and providing anti-aging benefits.
Although the “why” of its effectiveness isn’t clear, the benefits of omega-3s are becoming indisputable.
While you could supplement with fish oil capsules, there are plenty of healthy sources of omega 3 fats that you can include as part of a healthy, natural diet. Those include:
- Flax seeds
- Fish like salmon, sardines, halibut, and tuna
- Tofu (buy organic)