Omega-3 and Cognitive Health

Omega 3 and Cognitive HealthThere is a lot of research out there that looks at the connection between brain health and Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids, from cognitive function and memory to PTSD and mood elevation.

Here is a recap about the current science on Omega-3:

There are many randomized clinical studies that show very clear benefits for Omega-3 and its ability to reduce the rate of age-related cognitive decline and increase cognitive performance.  A key area of research now centers on the role Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids plays in the developments of a healthy fetus during pregnancy.  A new study reported increasing the intake of DHA, a component of Omega-3, could produce improvements in motor function later in life in offspring.  Another study showed improvements in motor, cognition, and visual development in offspring whose mother’s supplemented with Omega-3. The results of a meta-analysis that reviewed 15 randomized controlled gold trials showed an improvement in motor skills in children when Omega-3 supplementation occurred during pregnancy and infancy.

Other studies have reported Omega-3 supplementation supports improvements in behavior and mood, including benefits of EPA and reductions in depression symptoms.  One study found a 50% reduction in depression ratings in participants supplementing with 1,000 mg of EPA which matched the effects seen in patients taking the antidepressant drug Fluoxetine.  A recent study found EPA was helpful in reducing the severity of symptoms in suffers of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).  Increased levels of EPA and DHA, EPA only and the ratio of EPA to Omega-6 AA (arachidonic acid) were all associated with low PTSD severity symptoms in individuals who supplemented with Omega-3 after a 3 month period.  Another recent study found people suffering from PTSD benefited from Omega-3 supplementation for relieving psychophysiological symptoms like a pounding heart.

The findings in these new studies are of particular interest to both former and current members of the armed forces.  Additionally interest in Omega-3 for mood improvement, reductions in suicide rates amount current and ex-military personnel, increasing recovery from traumatic brain injury as well as improvements in reaction time for fighter pilots is being reviewed by the military.

Further studies of Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids and its benefits are imminent.

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Fighting Malnutrition:High-Dose Vitamin D Aids Weight Gain and Brain Development

Vitamin D and MalnutritionAccording to a new study supplementing with a high-dose of Vitamin D may improve language and motor skills development as well as improve weight gain in malnourished children.

185 severely malnourished children between the ages of 6 and 58 months provided the data for this trial.  All the participants were given high energy food sachets and were randomized to either receive a Vitamin D supplement or a placebo.  The study lasted 8 weeks.

The group who were receiving the supplement of Vitamin D experienced a significant improvement in weight (.26 kg compared to the control group).  Additionally Vitamin D seemed to considerably reduce the proportion of children experiencing delayed global development, delayed language development and delayed motor development, which were defined by reaching milestones like learning to talk or walk.

Throughout the world may children live with severe malnutrition which increases their risks of suffering from both physical and mental health conditions.  Currently only modest amounts of Vitamin D are included in the high energy food sachets, which are the typical protocol for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition.

Further studies are planned.

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Study Links Lutein Levels to Higher IQ

Lutein and Higher IQA new study finds higher levels of MPOD (macula pigment optical density), a measure of Lutein levels in the brain and eye, is associated with higher IQ levels.  Data from the study showed a higher MPOD level was an independent predictor of fluid intelligence, the ability to problem solve in unique situations and to think creatively in regard to everyday challenges, and IQ levels.

114 obese and overweight individuals between the ages of 25 and 45 participated in this study.  Individuals who are overweight and obese are known to be at risk for having a lower MPOD status.

Many studies in children, the elderly, middle age individuals and primates show Lutein’s importance in brain health.  The link between Lutein’s ability to support the eye and the brain is not a surprise since the brain and the eyes are connected.  In recent studies from pediatric brain tissue samples, Lutein made up about 60% of the total carotenoids identified in the brain tissue.  Considering Lutein makes up 12% of the carotenoids found in the diet, a preference for Lutein in the brain seems evident.

Prior studies have also shown higher blood levels of Lutein and Zeaxanthin are associated with better executive function, memory and cognition.

Further studies are needed.

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Higher Omega-3 Index Linked to Better Processing Speeds in Teenagers

Omega 3 and Improvements in Processing SpeedsResearch shows teenager with higher blood levels of Omega-3 may see improvements in information processing speeds compared with those individuals with lower blood levels of Omega-3.

Over 250 teenagers had blood samples taken in order to calculate the participants Omega-3 Index.  Cognitive performance was also assessed using many different cognitive tests.  The average Omega 3 index was determined to by 3.83%, which is well below the recommended range of between 8%-11%.  Participants with high Omega-3 index were excluded when figuring out the mean.  However the mean including those with a high Omega-3 index was still only 3.89%.

A higher Omega-3 index was associated with higher test scores on the LDST and lesser errors on the D2 test of attention.

The Omega-3 Index has also been linked to cardiovascular health.

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The Health Benefits of Vitamin E

Vitamin EVitamin E, an antioxidant, is a fat-soluble nutrient and can only be obtained through food or through supplementation.  It is well known for its benefits for the skin, however it also beneficially for the heart and the brain.  A deficiency of Vitamin E is usually caused by a genetic abnormality or a fat malabsorption disorder.

Health Benefits for the Skin:

People have long recognized that Vitamin E is good for their skin.               Vitamin E in addition to Vitamin C has been proven to provide anti-aging benefits by preventing oxidative damage caused by sunlight.  These two antioxidants are also able to protect the skin against UV irradiation as well as eliminate free radicals, known to break down the polyunsaturated fatty acid membranes that provide cellular protection for every cell.  These two antioxidants used in combination have been shown in studies to provide a synergistic benefit not seen by either antioxidant when taken by them self.  Additionally studies have shown people with vitiligo, a condition where the skin loses its pigmentation, who have taken Vitamin E supplements have improved re-pigmentation of the skin as well as a reduction in the worsening of the condition.  Reductions in inflammation and lesion growth have also been seen with Vitamin E supplementation.Brain

Health Benefits for the Heart:

Vitamin E aids in protecting cells from oxidative stress in addition to preventing LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol from oxidation.  A severe deficiency of Vitamin E can cause cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle.  Animal studies have shown beneficial effects of Vitamin E for atherosclerosis.  In a large study with almost 40,000 women participants over 45 years of age, cardiovascular death rates were reduced by 24% in participants supplementing with Vitamin E.  Women older than 65, experienced a 49% reduction in cardiovascular death rates and a 26% reduction in nonfatal heart attacks.

Health Benefits for Other Things:

New interest in Vitamin E and its ability to support brain health has prompted research.  Some studies have shown Vitamin E could provide protective effects against injuries occurring in brain cells caused by strokes, reducing the risk for neurodegenerative diseases.  It is believed that Vitamin E influences the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment as well.

Vitamin E also has been linked with benefits for individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFL).  Studies have found supplementation with Vitamin E improved biochemistry features and microscopic tissue structures of patients with NAFL.

Increased Vitamin E supplementation during pregnancy may be needed to meet the increased needs of the body and to prevent gestational complications including several brain conditions.

In a study of over 29,000 male smokers who supplemented with Vitamin E for 5 – 8 years, a 32% reduction in prostate cancer incidence was seen when compared to the placebo group.

Over 90% of adults in the United States do not meet the average daily requirement of Vitamin E (around 15 mg) according to the Linus Pauling Institute.  Older individuals needing to improve their immunity should take higher dosages.

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Evening Primrose Oil

Evening Primrose OilEvening Primrose Oil, EPO, is derived from a plant found in North America. This plant grows yellow flowers that bloom in the evening time, which is how the name of this essential fatty acid came to be.  EPO is found in the seeds of the plant and is approximately 25% essential fatty acids.  This means these oils are essential to our health however our bodies cannot make them.  Raw material manufacturers cold press the seeds of the flower to make the oil and then they encapsulate the raw material into a dietary supplement.   Evening Primrose Oil is an Omega-6 essential fatty acid and is a source of GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) and LA (linoleic acid).

Evening Primrose Acid may help the following:

  • Promote Healthy Joints
  • Support the symptoms of PMS
  • Balance gastrointestinal health
  • Support a healthy cardiovascular system
  • Nourish the skin
  • Protect the integrity of the cell membrane
  • Balance hormones
  • Provide healthy nerve support
  • Improve brain function
  • Support the health of the central nervous system
  • Aid in the absorption of vitamins K, E and D

Here are 6 areas where research has shown EPO may provide healthy results:

1) Hormone Balance

Essential fatty acids are considered to be the building blocks of hormones.  Hormones are required for most every metabolic process in the body.  The essential fatty acids found in EPO reduce inflammatory prostaglandins, support hormone balance and support endocrine disorders like PCOS which can affect menstrual cycle regularity, fertility and ovulation.

Prostaglandin, hormone like chemicals found in the body, production is modulated by Evening Primrose Oil.  Prostaglandins also play a role in water retention, normal blood clotting and even in labor initiation in the birthing process.  Although there are many kinds of prostaglandins they all play a role in the functioning of a healthy body.  EPO helps to maintain and promote healthy prostaglandin levels.

2) Fertility

Evening Primrose Oil has been shown to increase metabolic function and cervical mucus.  These are two key factors needed for healthy menstruation and ovulation.

3) PMS and Women’s Health

Evening Primrose Oil has been shown to support several symptoms associated with PMS like bloating, water retention, mood swings, acne, breast pain and irritability.  Usually these symptoms are related to imbalances in hormone levels and research shows EPO can moderate these symptoms when taken consistently.  EPO can also help support symptoms associated with menopause making it an essential nutrient for women’s health.

4) Healthy Skin

Evening of Primrose Oil which contains GLA is essential for skin health.  GLA has shown benefits in supporting skin issues related to inflammation as well as hormone imbalances.  The skin which is the body’s largest organ, needs the Omega-6 essential acids found in EPO to improve skin elasticity and to optimize cell membrane structure.  Research has found some benefits for individuals suffering from psoriasis, eczema and generalized skin redness and EPO supplementation.

5) Reducing Inflammation

Evening Primrose Oil is often used to promote balance throughout the inflammatory pathways in the body especially in the joints.  It is been use to support the diseases involving chronic inflammation like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and atopic dermatitis.  Research shows EPO can aid in dealing with symptoms associated with RA.

6) Health Hair

Hair loss common in both men and women is often associated with hormonal changes.  DHT, a male hormone, can cause hair follicles to shrink.  This reduces the hair’s lifespan and actually can actually slow down hair growth.  If DHT is high, which can happen to women with thyroid issues, PCOS and other chronic health issues, hair growth slows.  EPO can aid in stopping this hair loss.

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Could Melatonin Promote Healthy Ageing?

Melatonin and Anti-AgingA new review published in the British Journal of Pharmacology suggests supplementation with Melatonin may lessen the decreases in the strength of the circadian system seen with ageing.  Melatonin is associated with helping people fall asleep more rapidly as well as helping to realign sleep cycles to a normal dark/light pattern in people who are blind or who suffer from sleep-wake disorders.  Prolonged-release melatonin (PRM) has been shown to reduce nighttime blood pressure in individuals whose blood pressure does not normally drop at night.  For most people, there is a normal reduction in their blood pressure at night.  The risk of cardiovascular problems is significantly higher for individuals who do not experience this reduction.

Melatonin has also been showing promise in the area of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).  Associations between insomnia and AD and other neurodegenerative diseases have been identified.  Poor sleep quality has been associated with the build-up of beta-amyloid plaque in pre-clinical Alzheimer’s.  At this stage of AD neuropathological changes have been accompanied by reduced melatonin levels.  Researchers have also identified a possible correlation between sleep disruptions and a reduction in the ability of the brain to clear beta-amyloid plaque in the area of the brain involved in the speed of the reaction time to a verbal memory task (precuneus).

One study found participants with mild to moderate AD supplementing with a 2 mg/day dose of PRM over a 6 month period either maintained or showed improvements in their cognitive function.

Researchers believe the evidence to date shows sufficient benefits to warrant further studies.

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