skip to main content skip to footer

Omega 3’s for Memory and Brain Health


A new study from the University of Pittsburgh adds to the already large body of research supporting the powerful brain and memory support supplied by omega 3 fatty acids from fish and fish oil.

Omega 3’s have been successfully studied in older populations and in children. Now, in the first study of its kind, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have determined that healthy young adults ages 18-25 can improve their working memory by increasing their Omega-3 intake. Their findings have been published online in the journal: PLOS One.

Prior to supplementation blood samples were taken and participants underwent advanced brain scanning with PET (positron emission tomography). They were then asked to perform a working memory test in which they were shown a series of letters and numbers and had to keep track of their order. What I found particularly interesting about this study was that even before supplementation there was a positive correlation between blood levels of omega 3’s and working memory. In other words, participants who had higher blood levels of omega 3’s, which we get mainly from fish and fish oil, had better working memory and cognitive function.Krill Omega 3

After 6 months of supplementation with a high quality fish oil supplement participants took the test again with dramatic results. Their working memory was significantly improved. "It is really interesting that diets enriched with Omega-3 fatty acid can enhance cognition in highly functional young individuals," said lead researcher Rajesh Narendarn. This study adds to the body of evidence that supplementing with Omega 3’s from fish can support healthy brain function. Let’s review a few more studies to illustrate the point.

A recent study of particular interest was the "MIDAS" study 11/2010. MIDAS stands for Memory Improvement with Docosahexaenoic Acid Study. Docosahexaenoic Acid or DHA is one of the essential omega 3’s in fish oil. This large, randomized, placebo-controlled study was conducted on 485 subjects, aged 55 and older who were randomly assigned 900 mg/d of DHA or a placebo for 6 months. The group on DHA had significantly improved memory and learning even though they were over 55. This shows that seniors can expect benefit from omega 3 supplementation.

In a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2004, researchers used data from a national IQ survey done in 1947 when the participants were only 11. Then they tested their memory and cognition again 53 years later at age 64. The researchers used food frequency questioners and tested the participant’s blood to determine their levels of omega 3’s. They discovered that cognitive function (brain function) was faster in people with higher blood levels of O-3. Lead researcher, Prof. Lawrence Whalley at Aberdeen University noted: "The big difference we found was not in memory but in mental speed." "The brains of fish oil users seemed to be faster. There was a strong relationship between mental test scores and the omega-3 content in the blood."

Another study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: 2/3/10 using functional MRI’s of the brain showed that DHA dramatically increased brain activation in areas used for attention and focus in young boys age 8-10 (very important for children with focus issues). Several other studies on breast fed infants and children indicate higher IQ’s, verbal skills and improved coordination in children born of mothers who ate more fish or supplemented with fish oil.

EPA/DHA Omega 3 950 mgIn fact a study on 55 healthy adults performed by the University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine, using high-resolution structural magnetic resonance images of the brain, determined that people with higher intakes of omega 3’s had increased grey matter in 3 areas of the brain associated with emotional arousal and mood regulation. It is important to understand that the grey matter is the actual thinking part of the brain; specifically, the brain neurons, as opposed to white matter which is the insulation around those neurons.

Based on these and dozens and dozens of other studies we see that supplying our bodies and minds with optimal levels of omega 3’s from fish and or fish oil can have profoundly positive effects on the human brain. The question is not: Should I supplement with omega 3’s? The question is: Which omega 3 formula should I use? I have 2 favorites.

The first, and slightly more expensive choice, is a formula called Krill Omega Super Formula by Purity Products (it’s worth it). It’s a combination of krill oil and concentrated, high omega 3 fish oil. It supplies 300mgs of Krill Oil and a full 1,000mgs of the essential omega 3’s: EPA and DHA in 2 capsules (EPA and DHA are the important omega 3’s supplied by fish oil and krill oil). Krill oil has so many benefits that complement and enhance the benefits of omega 3’s from fish. Click here to read more about Krill Oil and Krill Omega Super Formula.

The second, EPA / DHA Omega 3 950mg by Physiologics, is a very pure, highly concentrated form of omega 3 fish oil. Just 1 capsule supplies 950mgs of omega 3’s (with 869 coming from EPA and DHA). These are both highly purified supplements that you will not repeat or cause any GI distress.

When you consider that the average store bought fish oil supplies only 300 mgs of EPA and DHA in a 1,000 mg capsule, and the fact that most will probably repeat on you, these are both excellent choices. I tell all of my patients: Omega 3 fish and or krill oil are the most important nutrients you can take. If you’re not using one yet, these are exceptionally good choices. If you are, check them out and compare them to what you are currently taking; I’m sure that you will find these to be the best.

Eat well, exercise, maintain a positive mental attitude and supplement wisely. That’s how we’ll age gracefully together.

To Your Excellent Health,
Dr. Neil Levin Chiropractor, Nutritionist, Fitness Trainer
Article written 11/2/12.

Dr. Levin practices in East Northport on Long Island, NY.
He can be reached at 631-651-2929 or by email at: drneil@drneillevin.com