Omega-3: who should be eating this and why!

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

A healthy brain is highly enriched with the long chain omega-3 fatty acids; eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenois acid (DHA), which serve to regulate several biochemical processes, including cell survival and neutransmission.

Omega-3 fatty acids may provide a range of neurological activities via modulation of neurotransmitters, inflammation, oxidation and neuroplasticity. A body of evidence has implicated dietary deficiency in EPA/DHA in those with mood disorders such as depression, ADHD and those with slower cognitive function.

Mood disorder

The antidepressant effect of fatty acids has been reported in a number of clinical trials. Insufficient DHA is associated with dysfunctional neuronal membrane stability and transmissiono of seritonin, noradrenalin and dopamine, which may contribute to the onset of mood disorders including depression. In addition omega-3 fatty acids may enhance other therapeutic treatments including prescription medication.

When omega-3 fatty acids were administered as a combination therapy with citalopram, a significantly greater improvement in Hamilton Depression Rating scale score was noted, suggesting that there may be an advantage to combining omega-3 fatty acids with a SSRI (selective seritonin reuptake inhibitor) medication, a particular type of anti-depressant.

Cognitive function

Higher intakes of essential fatty acids have been found beneficial for the ageing brain and may provide a novel strategy to maintain cognitive function into old age.

It has been suggested that krill oil may be a superior source of omega-3 fatty acids in this cohort as its fatty acids are incorporated into phospholipids, leading to enhanced absorption and bioavailability, rather than fish oil in which the omega-3’s are present as triglycerides. However the difference in effect on cognitive function between the two has not been proven in trials.

Omega-3 fatty acid has also been associated in better performance in processing speed in adolescent students and in younger children may inprove literacy and behaviour in those with attention deficiet hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).