Does Omega-3 Affect the Brain?

The last three data sets I’ve posted — one from Tim Lundeen, two from me (here and here) — provide evidence that omega-3 affects the brain. The evidence has several good features:

1. Two people.

2. Three tasks.

3. Two ways of varying omega-3.

4. Strong effects (that is, large t values).

5. Easy to obtain.

Does omega-3 affect the brain? This is a good place to start a research project because there is a reasonable chance the answer to the question “does omega-3 affect the brain?” is yes.

The placebo/expectations explanation — which, based on the lack of effect of placebos in most studies, is implausible to begin with — has trouble with several facts: 1. The initial discovery was a surprise. 2. Tim’s results involved comparison of two plausible doses. 3. Tim had earlier found that dose increases had no effect. 4. Tim’s results had a pattern I have never seen (and thus Tim couldn’t have expected). 5. My results had two different time courses.

Even more interesting than the idea that how much omega-3 we eat might affect how well our brains work are two more subtle ideas that are also becoming plausible: (a) the average diet (very low in omega-3) is very suboptimal and (b) improvement can be noticed quickly and easily.

In the latest U.S. government nutrition guidelines, there is no omega-3 requirement.

Directory of my omega-3 posts.

3 Responses to “Does Omega-3 Affect the Brain?”

  1. Oren Tirosh Says:

    I agree that it’s pretty unlikely to be a placebo effect – but why not go and do a double blind experiment anyway? It’s not very difficult.

  2. seth Says:

    The experiments I do first are those where I least know what will happen.

  3. Ronald Pottol Says:

    Have you compared long chain vs short chain? I have heard that you need much higher doses of short chain (such as flax oil) vs long chain (fish oil for instance), and that was my experience.

    I’m very fond of Trader Joe’s, as their’s is higher purity than most (smells less awful), more concentrated, and larger, thus I get my 1.5g a day in just three, vs 5 for most fish oil capsules.

    I’ve been taking it for a decade for depression, it works much better than ssri anti depressants for me.