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Remember cod liver oil? Your grandma or even mother may have made you take that as a kid.
Of course, back in those days it was a ‘spoon and you choke it down’; no fancy gummies or flavors of questionable ingredients back then!
As unpleasant as that may have been, turns out granny was right...
Fish oil, which is chock full of omega-3, is absolutely necessary for optimal health and wellness.
Omega-3 is known as an “essential” fatty acid. The long list of potential health benefits your body receives from omega-3 includes your eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels; sperm cells, immune system, hormone balance, and brain health.
And, research indicates that consuming more omega-3s from fish may lower your risk of developing Alzheimer's, dementia, and cognitive decline. We’ll look more closely at that in a moment. But first...
Dispelling Consumer Confusion
The health and wellness wires are full of headlines about “omegas”, and how badly you need them.
It can be easy to be confused or even dazzled by labels made to catch both your eye and your dollar. Marketing companies can be pretty convincing in telling you that you need ALL the omegas, and lots of them.
The simple truth is that omega-3 — simple fish oil — is really the only one you need. In fact, nutritional experts say that the typical American diet contains too many omega-6s, which are linked to inflammation.
On the other hand, as a nation, we habitually consume far too few omega-3s.
Sadly, way too many people are deficient in this essential fatty acid. It’s something your body needs to function at the basic level, and must be consumed because your body cannot manufacture it.
Not just for the Heart
It’s true: heart disease is the #1 cause of death in the US. Most people who are aware of the benefits of omega-3 (fish oil) know that it potentially helps with CVD (cardiovascular disease).
Increasing your intake of omega-3 can result protective benefits to your heart and cardiovascular system whether you are high risk or healthy.
What may not be as well known, but is being studied more extensively is...
How much fish oil (omega-3) can benefit your BRAIN health by preventing cognitive decline — leading to dementia and Alzheimer’s — and improve mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Omega-3 may be one of the most important supplements you can take for brain health.
Let’s look a bit deeper at just a couple of the ways omega-3 fish oil may help protect your brain from the ravages of cognitive decline due to aging.
Approximately 6 million Americans over the age of 65 suffer from depression. Shockingly, 68% of these people know very little about depression as a condition, and just 10% get treatment.
Clearly the presence of depression as you age is more of a problem than many realize.
Experts believe the reason depression is so overlooked as you age is because it can disguise itself as part of another illness — such as heart disease, Parkinson’s, cancer, arthritis and Alzheimer's.
According to Mental Health America, every year, 25% of people who have a stroke will have clinical depression. The Cleveland Clinic says that major depression affects around 15% of people with cardiovascular disease and 20% of those who have had heart surgery.
Fish oil has been shown to help reduce symptoms of depression. As Harvard Medical School explains, “[O]mega-3s can easily travel through the brain cell membrane and interact with mood-related molecules inside the brain.”
Over 30 clinical trials have been conducted to study the effects of omega-3 on people with depression, who do not respond (or have limited response) to traditional treatment.
Here are some stand-out results:
People with depression have demonstrated lower levels of EPA and DHA (important fatty acids in fish oil).
Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties that may help relieve depression.
Depressed, overweight individuals with diagnosed inflammation may benefit from omega-3 therapy.
Studies suggest DHA found in omega-3 may have a protective effect against suicide in depressed individuals.
Three human trials in Israel examined the results of omega-3 treatments over placebo in depressed patients (including bipolar depression), of varying ages. In all cases, the omega-3 preparations demonstrated better results in lessening depressive symptoms than the placebo.
When tested together, omega-3 (EPA specifically) and a leading prescribed antidepressant were found EQUALLY effective for major depressive order. Used in combination, the results were further improved.
Alzheimer’s & Dementia
One study followed over 2,000 elderly people for 5-6 years. People who ate fish twice a week reduced their incidence of dementia by 41%, over those eating fish just once a month.
The Alzheimer's Society of Great Britain cites a study of 437 healthy people showing early signs of dementia that were given omega-3 over 24 weeks. The results showed improved memory recall and learning.
A 2012 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Neurology found that people who tested as having lower levels of omega-3 had “older” brains. They also had measurable signs of vascular degeneration. This was assessed by tests on visual memory, abstract thinking and function.
This same study noted that lower levels of omega-3 corresponded to cognitive impairment in people without clinical dementia.
Researchers speculate that two of the biggest factors in developing, or being at risk for developing, Alzheimer’s are oxidative stress and immune response, which contribute “plaques” and inflammation blocking blood flow to the brain. Omega-3 can help reduce these plaques so often connected to Alzheimer’s and dementia.
It may also act as an anti-inflammatory within the brain. Researchers have found patients with HIGH levels of omega-3 have increased blood flow in the brain. Not only that, but they have noted that if you have optimal levels of omega-3 fish oil fatty acids in your blood, your memory and cognitive function may be improved.
Omega-3 fish oil can be a powerful ally in the fight against an aging brain… Or just for a healthy brain and body, overall.
Omega-3 has been found to be effective in helping support anxiety and age-related macular degeneration (AGE). Studies are currently underway to determine the positive effect omega-3 may have in preventing or alleviating borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
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