Essential for the Aging Brain: Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Mike Merucci

| 3 min read

Mike Merucci is a corporate communications intern at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. He is a rising senior at Michigan State University, where he studies advertising and copywriting. At MSU, he works for Impact 89FM as an entertainment journalist and radio DJ.

The term “fatty acid” may hold an unhealthy connotation for some people, but fats and fatty acids are important to our overall well-being. There are “healthy fats” and “unhealthy fats."
It has been identified that consuming saturated fats and trans fats may pose a risk to your health. You’ll want to limit your intake of these fats, but healthy fats are important during all stages of life, especially for children and older people.

Healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids

Healthy fats include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, which supply your body with essential nutrients. An especially important type of fat are omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are well-known for their heart-related benefits. According to the Cleveland Clinic, omega-3 fatty acids may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, blood clots and death by abnormal heart rhythms. They may also lower your blood pressure.
On a microscopic level, omega-3 fatty acids are crucial to your cell membranes. They help cells interact with each other and keep the structure of your cells healthy. So, from big to small, omega-3 fatty acids are necessary to support the health of your whole body. What about their benefits for your brain?

Omega-3 and your brain

Omega-3 fatty acids are concentrated around the eyes and brain. The brain health benefits have been displayed by numerous studies.
Here’s what a healthy intake of omega-3 fatty acids can do for your brain:
  • Aids in learning and memory
  • Promotes healthy blood flow in the brain
  • May reduce the risk for age-related cognitive decline
  • May lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease

Foods with omega-3 fatty acids

Since omega-3 fatty acids are so important for overall health as you grow older, it’s important to have them as a staple in your diet. Fish is the best source of omega-3s. A high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids can be found these fish:
  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Anchovy
  • Arctic char
  • Sardines
  • Tuna
  • Rainbow trout
  • Mackerel
If you can’t eat fish, omega-3 fatty acids can be found in plenty of other foods. Here are a few:
  • Flaxseed
  • Canola oil
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Edamame
Studies are conflicted on the benefits of omega-3 supplements, so it’s best to consume your omega-3s from food and talk to your healthcare provider whether a supplement is right for you.
When grouped with consistent mental stimulation, exercise, social activity and limited alcohol intake, having a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help your brain stay healthy as you age. Before you make any dietary changes associated with omega-3s, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional.
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Photo credit: Getty Images

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