Growing scientific evidence suggests that nutrient deficiencies – such as a lack of omega-3 fatty acids – damage the brain and are responsible for many mental health disorders. Omega-3 fatty acid intake may reduce risk of such diseases. The two most important fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), curb inflammatory processes in the body and can thus alleviate chronic diseases.
Omega-3 fatty acids are among the essential fatty acids – the most important building blocks of human health. They are vital to staying healthy, similar to certain vitamins or minerals. But the body can not form these fatty acids itself. Therefore, they must be consumed in the diet, either through natural foods or supplements such as fish oil capsules.
Researchers at the Center for Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders at Rhode Island Hospital in the U.S. found that DHA supplements alter important chemical processes and structures in the brain. In addition, they can counteract a decrease in cognitive performance and unusual brain aging.
In another study, published in the Journal of Lipid Research, researchers from Oregon State University in the U.S. presented results proving how important omega-3 fats are for health. The study showed that omega-3 fatty acids from fish or dietary supplements help prevent heart disease and other illnesses.
The authors also cited studies conducted with Inuit in Greenland in the early 1970s. The Inuit there ate a lot of fish and suffered unusually rarely from cardiovascular diseases. Omega-3 fatty acids are not only important for the heart, but also for a healthy brain and for the proper functioning of the eyes, joints and immune system.
Scientists found that omega-3 fatty acids from plant sources were less effective than those from cold-water fish such as salmon. Although the proportion of omega-3 fatty acids in linseed oil or walnuts is very high, the body is better able to process the nutrients from fish. The most important omega-3 fatty acids are found mainly in salmon and anchovies.
Nutrition experts advise eating fatty fish two to three times a week or taking fish oil supplements to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease.