fish oil improves working memory in healthy young adults

Omega-3′s, especially DHA research, just keeps confirming what our grandmother’s said about fish being ‘brain food’. Research headed by Rajesh Narendran at the University of Pittsburgh was published in the on line journal PLOS one in early October 2012, (you can read the rather technically written abstract here). This clinical trial tested working memory in 11 young men and women between the ages of 18 and 25, before and after 6 months of supplementation with 930 mg of EPA and 750 mg DHA per day.

Working memory is the memory that we use to hold a number of different tasks in mind–such as when we ask our kids to ‘go upstairs, put on your pajamas, wash your face, brush your teeth, then get get a book, get in bed, and then I’ll come up and read to you”. Until this becomes a routine, it requires working memory to keep all those steps in mind. We need it a lot working with computers, to follow a set of complex sequential tasks–the better our working memory, the less often we have to refer back to the directions.

There were a number of very surprising things about this study. First, they found that baseline working memory correlated rather well with the level of DHA found in each participant’s red blood cell membranes (a convenient place to test, since DHA and EPA are taken up in cell membranes). Further, at the end of the study, all 11 subjects had an improvement in working memory, which again correlated with the increase in DHA content of their red blood cell membranes.Researchers were a bit disappointed that the sophisticated brain imaging that they also did could not discern the mechanism by which this improvement in working memory occurred.

Researcher Bita Moghaddam commented “Before seeing this data, I would have said it was impossible to move young healthy individuals above their cognitive best. We found that members of this population can enhance their working memory performance even further, despite their already being at the top of their cognitive game.” Coauthor Matthew Muldoon noted “So many of the previous studies have been done with the elderly or people with medical conditions, leaving this unique population of young adults unaddressed. But what about our highest-functioning periods? Can we help the brain achieve its full potential by adapting our healthy behaviors in our young adult life? We found that we absolutely can.”

These levels of EPA and DHA can be achieved with 2 capsules of any high quality fish oil that is concentrated to at least 2/3 EPA+DHA (standard fish oil is 1/3 EPA+DHA). Be sure that it is from small ocean fish, such as sardines, which have lower levels of environmental contaminants to begin with, is protected from oxidation during processing, which should include molecular distillation to remove residual contaminants such as PCBs, and dioxins, and is preserved with potent antioxidants. So if you or your kids want to do well in school, 2 capsules a day of high quality fish oil appears to definitely provide a benefit.

Glucosamine + fish oil omega-3’s has been shown to begin the process of reversing osteoarthritis

A recent study looks at the effect of glucosamine sulfate with or without omega-3 fatty acids in patients with osteoarthritis.

Glucosamine + fish oil omega-3’s has been shown to begin the process of reversing osteoarthritis, as published by Gruenwald et al in the Sept 2009 issue of the journal Advances in Therapy. (link) Though this is not a big surprise,  its nice to see as a new addition to the scientific literature. I’ve been recommending glucosamine/chondroitin + fish oil/vitamin D + green lipped mussel oil + MSM + proteolytic enzymes, for years, and now have added to the repertoire concentrated anthocyanins from all the major “super fruits”,  for all manner of inflammatory problems. With just 1500 mg of glucosamine, and 200 mg of EPA+DHA (a wimpy dose of omega-3) 44% of the group receiving both glucosamine and omega-3 showed at least an 80% reduction in pain over 26 weeks time, as compared with only 32% of those who received only glucosamine. Just think what they might find if they added vitamin D, green lipped mussel oil, MSM, proteolytic enzymes, and fruit anthocyanins…

Omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce obesity

OK, so fish oil isn’t going to make you lose those extra 30 pounds you’re carrying. But it appears that keeping your omega-3 intake high, and your omega-6 intake (meat, poultry, warm weather vegetable oils) low, may contribute to making it easier to maintain a healthy weight—not to mention a healthy heart, healthy brain, healthy joints, healthy immune system, etc. etc…..

A recent study found:

Higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce obesity, according to a new study from Australia’s University of Newcastle.

Omega-3 levels in people who are a healthy weight are 15 percent higher than in those who are overweight, the researchers reported in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Mercury not a problem in fish oil products

News reports are routinely talking about the problem of mercury in fish.

WASHINGTON – Mercury contamination was found in every fish tested at nearly 300 streams across the country in the most comprehensive look at the spread of the toxic element in streams and rivers.

All fish had traces of contamination, and about a quarter had mercury levels exceeding what the Environmental Protection Agency says is safe for people eating average amounts of fish.

Why do “they” never advise people to take fish oil (DHA and EPA) supplements? Seems like a no brainer to me….. Even without the extra purification step of molecular distillation (which should be used to remove PCBs, dioxins, and other fat soluble environmental contaminants to produce a high quality fish oil), the mercury stays in the fish protein. There is essentially no mercury in any (even low quality) fish oil products. Seems like this ought to be better known…..

All fish had traces of contamination, and about a quarter had mercury levels exceeding what the Environmental Protection Agency says is safe for people eating average amounts of fish.

Omega-3 Kills Cancer Cells

Medical News today reported the results of a study showing DHA’s role in reducing tumor size:

Docosahexanoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oils, has been shown to reduce the size of tumours and enhance the positive effects of the chemotherapy drug cisplatin, while limiting its harmful side effects.

Ever since a case report was published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer in 2005 in which an elderly man with a large and inoperable lung sarcoma went into complete remission with high dose fish oils, predominantly DHA, I’ve been emphasizing DHA (and vitamin D) in my nutritional recommendations for people facing cancer challenges.

In the case report, the intake of EPA+DHA was in the range of 15-18 grams per day, about the amount that the Innuit on their traditional diet of seal, fish, and whale blubber used to consume. That’s a lot of omega 3, and should be supervised by a nutritionally knowledgeable physician, but even 4-6 grams per day, especially with a high DHA product can be a big help.