There is always the fear of loss or reduced cognitive skills in old age which could lead to diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. There are several factors that determine how your brain health will be as you age. For instance, several research studies have shown bad lifestyle habits including smoking, excessive junk food consumption, taking stress, not exercising could lead to deterioration of the brain and faster ageing of the brain. Similarly, previous studies have also shown that a good diet and lifestyle practices can help keep your brain sharp even in old age. Now, new research has revealed that older adults with higher levels of key nutrients like Omega-3 in the blood are more likely to have efficient brain connectivity that can boost their cognitive skills. This essentially means that for excellent brain health, you need to eat more of foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids.
Nutrients other than Omega-3 fatty acids which are brain-friendly
It’s not just Omega-3 fatty acids, there are some other nutrients that are crucial to the functioning of the brain in old age. These include Omega-6 fatty acids, carotenoids, lycopene, riboflavin, folate, vitamin B12 and vitamin D, according to the researchers at the University of Illinois (UI). The more the nutrient biomarkers in the blood like Omega-3, the more enhanced the performance is on specific cognitive tests in the elderly.
For the study, published in the journal NeuroImage, the team looked at 32 key nutrients in the Mediterranean diet, which previous research has shown is associated with better brain function in ageing. It included 116 healthy adults aged 65-75 years. The analysis revealed that a pattern of Omega-3s, Omega-6s and carotene was linked to better functional brain network efficiency.
How Omega-3 fatty acids help preserve cognitive skills
Different nutrient patterns appeared to moderate the efficiency in different brain networks. For example, higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids paralleled the positive relationship between a healthy frontoparietal network and general intelligence. The frontoparietal network supports the ability to focus attention and engage in goal-directed behaviour.
Eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA and Docosahexaenoic acid or DHA are kinds of omega-3 fatty acids. Both are primary components of the brain and important in the development of the brain and vision. They are found in fatty fish and oils from fish including salmon, mackerel and tuna. A high-DHA diet benefits the brain immensely. LA (alpha-linolenic acid), another omega-3 fatty acid, is found in plant sources such as nuts and seeds.
How to get Omega-3 fatty acids from your diet
Now that it has been established that omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods can help develop cognitive skills and boost brain health in the elderly, you must know what kind of food needs to be consumed. Some of the best non-vegetarian sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish like salmon mackerel and tuna which contain DHA. Salmon has the highest content of DHA in fish (from 2000 to 3000 mg per 6 ounces serving.) Eggs also have omea-3 fattya acids. The vegetarian sources of Omega-3 include walnuts which also contain omega-6 fats. You can get around nine grams of omega-6 fatty acids by consuming 1/4th cup of walnuts. Flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, canola oil etc. are the vegetarian sources of Omega-3.