New study demonstrates omega-3 fatty acids increase blood flow to regions of the brain associated with cognition
According to a new study published last Thursday in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, by using neuroimaging, researchers were able to demonstrate increased blood flow in regions of the brain associated with memory and learning in individuals with higher omega-3 levels.
Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders (ADRD) are a group of conditions that cause mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia. These conditions affect one’s ability to function socially, personally, and professionally. It’s important to recognize that Alzheimer’s disease begins long before symptoms start, just like many other conditions. There is evidence that simple prevention strategies can reduce the risk of ADRD by as much as 50%.
This new study included 166 individuals from a psychiatric clinic in which Omega-3 Index results were available. These patients were categorized into two groups: higher EPA and DHA concentrations (>50th percentile) and lower concentrations (<50th percentile). Quantitative brain single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) was performed on 128 regions of their brains and each individual completed computerized testing of their neurocognitive status.
SPECT can measure blood perfusion in the brain. In addition, performing various mentally stimulating cognitive tasks will show increased blood flow to specific brain regions. (Previous research has demonstrated that mentally stimulating activities reduce the risk of new-onset mild cognitive impairment even when performed later in life.) As a result, researchers identified significant relationships between the Omega-3 Index and regional perfusion on brain SPECT in areas that are involved with memory and neurocognitive testing.
This study demonstrated the positive relationships between omega-3 EPA and DHA status, brain perfusion, and cognition. This is significant because it shows a correlation between lower omega-3 fatty acid levels and reduced brain blood flow to regions important for learning, memory, depression and dementia.
By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS