Omega-3: More Evidence of Brain Benefit

From the Wall Street Journal:

In a study to be released Tuesday, participants with low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood had slightly smaller brains and scored lower on memory and cognitive tests than people with higher blood levels of omega-3s. The changes [that is, the differences] in the brain were equivalent to about two years of normal brain aging, says the study’s lead author.

As this article recommends, I used to eat plenty of fish. But I still noticed a dramatic improvement in my balance and cognitive abilities when I started taking flaxseed oil. The best amount seemed to be 2-3 tablespoons/day. Fish wasn’t supplying close to the optimum amount of omega-3. One comment on the article was

The only proper response to this article should be, “Duh.”

I disagree. A better response is to ask How much room for improvement is there?

7 Responses to “Omega-3: More Evidence of Brain Benefit”

  1. Nick Says:

    You like flax, but it’s a source of ALA, not EPA/DHA.

    http://examine.com/faq/can-i-eat-flax-seeds-instead-of-fish-or-fish-oil-for-omega-3s.html

    Flax is healthy, but I don’t think it can offer the same benefits of fish, contrary to what your anecdote suggests.

  2. David199 Says:

    I’m also curious why he uses flax oil and not fish oil directly.

  3. Ron Says:

    Seth,

    Seems to me what would be clarifying/useful is if you were to try and switch out the flaxseed oil for an equal amount of fish-derived omega 3′s (ie, EPA/DHA from fish oil).

    The purpose being that you would then know if it were a general omega 3 dosing effect, or specifically an alpha-linolenic acid effect.

    Seth: Others have found similar effects using other forms of omega-3.

  4. Brian Says:

    Seth posited a neurological benefit. Nick, you posted a link about its efficacy in providing a cardiovascular benefit. Further, the abstracts for the later studies at your link, e.g. regarding vegan consumption, dealt with quantities of flaxseed that are approximately no more than 1/8 of what Seth consumes.

  5. JRM Says:

    What percentage of calories per day are you consuming as omega 6? Omega 3?

    Seth: Omega-6: Not much. 3%? That’s just a guess. Sometimes I eat nuts. I avoid vegetable oils, nut oils, and so on. Omega-3: 10%? Again, these are just guesses.

  6. Valerie Says:

    I tried eating ground flax seeds regularly on two different occasions. Both time, I ended the experiment because I was getting bruises. I mean that tiny bump in anything gave me a bruise. Carrying a heavy box in my harm gave me bruises on both forearms. I even got bruises I could not explain. It seemed dangerous to continue.

    Did anyone else encounter that problem? Does it mean something? Is there a solution?

  7. Seth Roberts Says:

    Increased bruising from flaxseeds: I think this is due to an increase in clotting time, a well-known effect of flaxseed oil and perhaps fish oil. Too-long clotting time certainly is dangerous — the danger is of a stroke. I eat ground flaxseed because it has substantial easy to notice benefits (e.g., pink gums instead of reddish gums). If I were in your position, I would start with a tiny dose and increase it. At the first sign of bruising, I would reduce the dose to a dose that doesn’t cause bruising. I would also try to find out if my clotting time (without flaxseeds) was unusually long.