EPA, DHA and brain volume

 
 
 

Our brain is the largest among the mammals. Yes, whales and elephants have larger brains in absolute terms, but the human brain is larger than any other in relation to body size. The human brain is triple the size of ancestors that lived 3 million years ago and it is three times as large as the brain of a chimpanzee, our closest living relative. Much of the brain expansion is related to the part of the brain called the cerebral cortex, especially the frontal lobes, which are associated with executive functions (as we have explained in another post, executive functions include planning ability, reasoning and abstract thought); the portion of the cerebral cortex devoted to vision is also enlarged in humans.

With the aim of finding out whether red blood cell levels of marine omega-3 fatty acids were related to brain volume, the authors of a recent research collected data about the red blood cell levels of EPA and DHA of 1,111 postmenopausal women who had taken part in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study and, eight years later, they have measured their brain volumes (by magnetic resonance imaging).

A higher omega-3 level was correlated with larger total normal brain volume. This means that maintaining higher red blood cell levels of EPA and DHA could slow down brain atrophy related with aging.

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Brain aging and DHA

Lower levels (in comparison with higher levels) of DHA in red blood cells of people free of dementia are associated with smaller brain volume and a pattern of cognitive impairment [...]