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Fish Oil Helps Preserve Brain Cells and Memory

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The hippocampus area of the brain plays an important role in memory, and is the area most affected by Alzheimer's disease. The good news is that a study published in the January 22, 2014 online issue of Neurology found that the participants who took fish oil supplements for eight years had larger brain volumes. This is significant because shrinking brain volume is a sign of Alzheimer's disease, as well as normal aging.

The women, who averaged 78 years old, had MRIs of their brain, and blood tests to determine the omega-3 fatty acids levels in their red blood cells. Those with the highest levels of omega-3s in their red blood cells had a 2.7% larger volume in the hippocampus when compared to the women who had the lowest levels. They also had a 0.7% larger overall brain volume.

In an interview with USA Today, Jay Potalla, PhD, lead author of the study, said that these benefits could be achieved with fish or fish oil supplements. But to get to a high enough level, you would have to eat oily fish at least twice a week and take fish oil supplements daily or eat fish at least five times a week, he said.

What are EFAs? Essential Fatty Acids - the healthy fats you can't live without!
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are critical to every cell of your body and essential for anti-aging. In fact, your body needs EFAs just like it needs other essential vitamins and minerals to help prevent and treat numerous diseases. But since the body cannot manufacture them, EFAs must come from the food you eat and/or nutritional supplements.

Omega 3s include Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and Alpha linolenic acid (ALA).

Omega-3 fatty acids—EPA and DHA—are found primarily in cold-water fish (salmon, mackerel, cod, herring, rainbow trout, sardines or eel), fish oil supplements, ALA is found in freshly ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil; dark, leafy greens, hemp seed, soybeans, canola, walnut and flaxseed and oils made from those beans, nuts and seeds.

How much DHA and EPA are in fish oil?
The amount of fish oil used in much of the research that has been done provided 3 grams per day of omega-3 fatty acids. This amount is usually found in 10 grams of fish oil. To calculate how much omega-3 fatty acid is contained in a fish-oil supplement, add together the amounts of EPA and DHA. For example, a typical 1,000-mg capsule of fish oil provides 180mg of EPA and 120mg of DHA (total omega-3 fatty acids=300 mg). Ten of these capsules contain 3,000mg of omega-3 fatty acids.

If you are a vegetarian take several tablespoons of flax seed oil daily.

Safety precautions
Eating fresh fish every day used to be the best way to get high-quality fish oil. But not only is that difficult for most of living in the U.S., much of the fish now found in the oceans, lakes, and streams contain dangerously high levels of mercury and other toxins.
The health risks of ingesting these toxins outweighs the benefits of getting omega-3s … since we'd have to eat lots more fish than may be considered safe.

Supplementing your diet with fish oil capsules is the next best thing to relying on fresh fish. Just be sure that you take a high-quality, fresh product. Check the expiration date on the bottle, and cut open a capsule and taste the oil. If it tastes and smells like fish that's gone bad, don’t eat it! It is rancid oil. Even the best oil will be fishy and oily but will not have that sharp, bitter, fishy smell of rancid fish oil.

What do EFAs do?

EFAs serve as precursors to an entire class of hormones called prostaglandins, which regulate nearly every body function. EFAs nourish the skin, hair, mucous membranes, nerves, thyroid, adrenals, cells and much more. They provide internal lubrication, keeping the gastrointestinal tract lubricated and aiding in smooth, efficient digestion and elimination.

They also control the way cholesterol works in the body, and play a key role in the functioning of the brain, and in regulating inflammation and healing, the immune, digestive, reproductive and cardiovascular functions.

Our very first EFAs come from mother's milk, which is a source of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)— both essential to brain development. These fats are not found in cow's milk, which is one of the prime reasons breastfeeding is preferred over formula feeding. If a baby must take formula, it is especially important that the formula is enriched with DHA. After weaning, omega 3s must be derived from food or dietary supplements.

So, to maintain your brain health and protect your memory, feed it fish (also known as brain food), take fish oil supplements, and remember to exercise regularly.

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