Omega-3 and Arithmetic

After I posted my recent omega-3 results, Tim Lundeen, a Bay Area software developer, commented that his scores on an arithmetic test had improved after he had increased his omega-3 intake because of my results. I invited him to guest-blog about this:

For the last year [Tim wrote] I’ve been been working on feeling better, trying to recover some of the energy and mental acuity that (I like to think) I used to have. As part of my program, I got Dr. Ryuta Kawashima’s book, Train Your Brain. His MRI studies have shown that simple arithmetic problems, done with time pressure, improve overall brain function. His book has 60 problem sets, each with 100 simple arithmetic problems such as 7 x 9 or 13 – 5.

Here are my results from 90 days of tests, including several breaks of 1 to 3 weeks (lower numbers are better):

Tim Lundeen's arithmetic results

I started out at about 110 seconds per problem set, improved to 80-82 seconds per set, and got stuck there. Each time I took a break due to travel or other distractions, I would start up at about 95 seconds and quickly come back down to my 80-82 second range.

Until the last 4 days. As part of my program to feel better, I started taking a DHA supplement. (DHA is found in fish oil. It is an omega-3 fatty acid that is preferred by the brain). I started taking 200 mg/day of DHA about 4 months ago, and didn’t notice any effects, good or bad. So two months ago I increased the dose to 400 mg/day. Again I didn’t notice any effects. After reading about the effects of Seth’s omega-3 supplements, I increased my DHA by 400 mg/day to 800 mg/day. The supplements, plus omega-3 eggs, some flax oil (partially converted in the body to DHA), and some fish and oysters, put me well over the 1g/day recommended level. (When I have fish or oysters I take only 600 mg of DHA instead of 800mg.)

I do the arithmetic test about 8 am every morning. I take the DHA supplement about 9 am. The effect of the 400 mg increase was immediate: The next morning my score dropped to 76-77 seconds, about 5% better than I’ve ever seen on a regular basis. I made the change 5 days ago. The last 4 days are 4 of my 5 all-time best scores. It is fascinating to have another data point connecting brain function with omega-3 supplements.

The supplements I take are from iNutritionals. They are $0.58/200 mg capsule ($35/bottle). They are from algae and are tasteless/odorless. No aftertaste or unpleasant effects. I tried a fish oil supplement a couple of years ago and couldn’t take it because of the fishy taste and aftertaste.

About me: I’m CEO of Web Crossing, Inc. My best-known product is Microsoft Works for the Macintosh, which sold millions of copies.

5 Responses to “Omega-3 and Arithmetic”

  1. pdf23ds Says:

    I’ve been taking fish oil supplements for the past couple weeks (and seeing some subjective improvement). I actually sort of enjoy the mild fishiness.

    How many fish oil capsules would equal what you’re taking, Seth? (With 340 mg omega-3, inc. 180 mg EPA, 120 mg DHA) I had the impression that you were totalling much more than a gram of omega-3, but maybe my math was wrong, or maybe the other omega-3 form isn’t absorbed as efficiently?

  2. seth Says:

    I don’t know — it depends on the conversion rate of shorter-chain omega-3 to longer-chain omega-3. Little is known about the conversion rate. I will eventually test fish oil to see what amounts produce equivalent effects.

    I have been taking about 21 g of shorter-chain omega-3 (ALA). DHA and EPA are longer-chain omega-3. The shorter-chain ALA has the advantage not only of working but also of supplying the SLD calories I want.

  3. Sean Says:

    Hate to advertise, but since I saw that Tim was paying 60 cents per 200mg capsule…I buy my fish oil capsules (300mg of Omega 3 – 180mg EPA and 120mg DHA) from the Daily Vita eBay store:
    http://stores.ebay.com/DailyVita_Essential-Fatty-Acids_W0QQcolZ4QQdirZQ2d1QQfsubZ5QQftidZ2QQtZkm

    For 500 capsules I paid $12.50 plus $6 shipping. So a total of $18.50 or 3.7 cents each – with 100mg more Omega 3 than Tim’s. The delivery is also pretty fast, and the fish oil is good (one important thing to do with each new fish oil shipment: taste the liquid of a capsule for yourself to make sure the batch isn’t rotten…this HAS been known to happen).

  4. seth Says:

    what a big difference! thanks for telling us.

    one reason I find this research so promising is that it should allow testing on yourself of how effective this or that batch or brand is. No longer will you have to take someone else’s word for it. No doubt the seller of the more expensive omega-3 will say it is better; but you can simply see for yourself.

  5. Jeff Winkler Says:

    This looks like a good interactive math quiz to test mental agility – http://maxi.kabutz.net/maths_gwt/Maths.html. The quiz is random..it’s time and you’re scored for correctness. I haven’t seen the book Tim references, but this sounds like a good replacement for pre-printed worksheets.