Fish is Brain Food

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Fish is Brain Food

Omega-3s appear to improve the conduction of electrolytes through cellular membranes. A diet low in omega-3s could impair the growth and functioning of neurons.1 The retina of the eye matures rapidly in the first 6 months after birth. A small study that compared the visual acuity of infants fed breast milk (which has DHA) or formula (without DHA) found visual acuity was impaired in those fed the DHA-free formula.2

Another study examined problem-solving ability at 10 months of age in infants fed a standard formula or one supplemented with DHA and arachidonic acid (ARA - an omega-6 PUFA). Even though the PUFA supplemented formulas were fed for just the first 4 months of infancy. At 10 months of age, those infants given the DHA and ARA supplemented formula exhibited significantly greater problem solving ability than those fed the standard formulas. This suggests that infants who do not receive enough DHA and ARA in early infancy may end up with lower IQs.3

Omega-3s may not only be essential for the normal development of neurons in babies but may also be needed in adults to help maintain normal brain function. A prospective study of about 5,000 people (55y +) in a suburb of Rotterdam, found that dementia with a vascular component was most strongly associated with a diet high in fat and saturated fat. The consumption of fish was inversely associated with the incidence of dementia, and in particular to Alzheimer?s disease. The results of this study suggest that eating a diet high in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol may increase the risk of senility whereas the consumption of fish may reduce the risk of senility as we grow older.4 Perhaps grandma was right after all, when she said that ?fish is brain food!?

1. Farquharson J, Jamieson E, Abbasi K, et al. Effect of diet on the fatty acid composition of the major phopholipids of infant cerebral cortex. Arch Dis Child 1995;72:198-203

2. Makrides M, Simmer K, Goggin M, Gibson R. Erythrocyte docosahexaenoic acid correlates with the visual response of healthy, term infants. Pediatric Res 1993;33:425-7

3. Williats P, Forsyth J, DiModugno M, et al. Effect of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in infant formula on problem-solving at 10 months of age. Lancet 1998;352:688-91

4. Kalmijn S, Launer LJ, Witteman JCM, et al. Dietary fat intake and the risk of incident dementia in the Rotterdam study. Ann Neurol 1997;42:776-82.

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