Omega-3 Fat Intake May Prolong Heart Health and Boost Brain Function

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Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), namely DHA and EPA, have been linked to a 35-percent lower risk of cardiovascular death in older adults and may also benefit people of all ages, according to recent scientific research. This includes helping reduce brain damage in infants after stroke, increase math scores in teenagers, and boost memory in young adults. These and other findings are summarized in the August 2013 PUFA Newsletter for health professionals. 

An observational study led by Harvard Medical School in the US shows that healthy older adults who consume 400 mg per day of EPA + DHA may have up to a 40 percent lower risk of death from heart disease and live two years longer after the age of 65. Moreover, higher omega-3 concentrations were significantly associated with lower total mortality. Findings were based on nearly 2,700 participants.

“Although this was an observational study, it clearly suggests that a diet with higher levels of omega-3s contributes to a longer, healthier life,” says PUFA Newsletter editor Joyce Nettleton, DSc.

Another US study at Columbia University used an animal model to see if omega-3 PUFAs would influence brain recovery after pediatric stroke, which affects up to 1,700 US infants each year. Findings revealed almost a 50 percent reduction in brain tissue loss in mice treated with omega-3s or pure DHA immediately after a stroke compared to controls. Brain damage was significantly reduced for up to eight weeks.

“This suggests that DHA might be neuroprotective in human infants as well and useful in treating pediatric stroke,” says Nettleton.

A study of 28 countries reports that higher breast milk DHA in nursing women is associated with better math scores in their children at age 15. While not all of the highest-scoring countries reported DHA levels above the worldwide average of 0.32 percent, two-thirds of them did.

“These observations are consistent with the previously reported cognitive and neurodevelopmental benefits associated with higher intakes of DHA in early life,” notes Nettleton.

Finally, healthy, young adults appear to benefit from omega-3 PUFAs, according to a Massey University study in New Zealand. DHA supplementation was associated with improved response times for both episodic (that of autobiographical events) and working memory.

To read more about these and other studies in the PUFA Newsletter, go to www.fatsoflife.com.