Fish oil: Lubricant for the brain
Dr. Elliot Hirshorn
Fish oils have long been touted as beneficial for a variety of health issues and are most often used as a heart healthy supplement. While the list of potential benefits can be quite lengthy, one of the most important breakthroughs in fish oil research was published in 2014.
A studied published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia reported on work done by researchers affiliated with the Medical School of Brown University in which it was found that fish oils can help to prevent or slow down the disease processes associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The study followed 819 people with varying degrees of cognitive degeneration – some were normal, some with mild cognitive impairment and some with Alzheimer’s. They were all followed and assessed periodically with neuropsychological tests and MRIs over the course of four years. The results were encouraging.
Those individuals that supplemented with fish oils had less brain shrinking and scored better on the cognitive tests than did the non-users of fish oils. Better results were seen when fish oil supplementation was started early, therefore supplementation is best for prevention of neurological degeneration and progression from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s. Once in late Alzheimer’s, physical damage to the brain is too significant to allow any substantial benefit of fish oil use for cognitive function.
The positive results of this and other studies showing the health benefits of fish oils often leave many people asking the following questions:
1. When should I start taking fish oils?
Based on this particular study, taking fish oil supplements by at least middle-age would be most appropriate for helping to prevent dementia. Taking them even earlier can help afford other benefits as well. For example, many children with neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD can see improvement in cognitive function with the proper supplementation of fish oils.
2. How do I choose the best fish oil?
It is important that you choose the proper ratio of fish oils. The most important fish oil is omega 3. We get plenty of omega 6s and 9s in our diets so don’t buy a supplement with those. With the omega 3s, the most important subtypes are EPA and DHA. DHA is more specific to the brain, so if you’re goal is improvement in brain function, choose one with a higher amount of DHA compared to EPA. You also want an omega 3 in a triglyceride (TG) form rather than and ethyl ester form (EE).
You also want to choose a reputable brand. Most fish oils you can buy from health care offices are of a much higher quality than those you can purchase from the local drug store. When looking on the internet, be careful. Even if they are physician grade supplements, most of those manufacturers will not stand behind their products if you don’t buy them directly from a health care provider. Make sure the brand you purchase verifies their purity and potency by a third party.
3. How much should I take?
This is really dependent upon each individual person. You can always follow the recommendations on the bottle, but its best to get specific direction from a healthcare professional.
Omega 3 fish oils have many benefits even beyond the prevention of dementia. Research shows they are likely beneficial for heart disease, arteriosclerosis, asthma, miscarriages, ADHD, bipolar disorder, high blood pressure, menstrual pain, reduced risk of cancer, autoimmune disease, stroke and weight loss.
If you have a chronic health condition and would like more information about high quality, physician grade fish oils and how they might benefit you, please call New Life Functional Neurology & Endocrinology at 864-757-8500 to see if you qualify for care and to schedule a complimentary consultation.
Dr. Elliot Hirshorn is a board-certified chiropractic neurologist and practitioner of functional medicine at New Life Functional Neurology & Endocrinology in Greenville, SC. The information contained herein is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or diagnosis and does not replace or constitute a doctor-patient relationship. Please seek out the advice of a qualified health care practitioner before making any health-related decisions.