Cold-Water Fish Improves Cognitive Function, Helps Build a Healthy Brain
Reported by: The Epoch Times / Chris Chen
New evidence suggests that eating cold-water fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids is effective in protecting brain health and enhancing cognitive performance in midlife.
Cold-Water Fish Are Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The American Heart Association stated that people should consume at least two servings of cold-water fish per week.
Cold-water fish is a kind of fish that can only survive in water with a temperature lower than 20 degrees Celsius (or 78 degrees Fahrenheit). Unlike warm-water fish, cold-water fish need more fat to maintain body temperature, and the unsaturated, healthier fats under their skin act as antifreeze in the water. Therefore, cold-water fish are one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and the fat a fish contains is perfectly suited for its survival. The colder the water, the better the fat has to be.
What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Since our body cannot synthesize omega-3 fatty acids, the only way to maintain normal physiological functions is to supplement these oleic acids from external food. There are three main omega-3 fatty acids—linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is mainly found in vegetable oils, such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil. Fish and other seafood contain DHA and EPA.
Cold-Water Fish Are Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Sardines. Slender, silvery little fish that can be eaten fresh, dried, smoked, or cured. Sardines with tomatoes, and sardines with onions, are very tasty. They contain 1,950 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per 3 ounces.
Salmon. With small scales, few spines, and orange-red flesh, it is a tender and tasty fish, and a classic of sashimi. Wild salmon is even richer in omega-3 fatty acids, containing 1,060 mg in 3 ounces.
Albacore tuna. The flesh of tuna is purplish-red in color, similar to beef. It is high in hemoglobin, low in fat, and high in protein. Adding canned tuna to a sandwich or salad is both delicious and inexpensive. It contains 900 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per 3 ounces of tuna.
Mackerel. Mackerel is one kind of cold-water fish that is often overlooked. It offers 20 grams of high-quality protein per 3-ounce portion, along with vitamin B-12, iron, magnesium, and zinc. It will be delicious if served with roasted veggies with lemon juice, and a bed of quinoa or braised kale on the side.
Herring. Usually, herring is marinated in vinegar, but of course, fillets marinated in wine are also a good choice. You can also serve it with some cream and eggs, or make it into a sandwich. It tastes delicious, and herring contains about 2000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per 3 ounces.
If you don’t enjoy eating fish, you can consume fish oil supplements or other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These include:
Vegetables—spinach, kale, avocados, beans.
Nuts—walnuts, almonds, flaxseed.
Oils—flaxseed oil, canola oil, walnut oil, hemp seed oil.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Can Protect Brain Health
According to research published in October 2022 by Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), omega-3 levels in the red blood cells are positively associated with brain structure and cognitive function in healthy volunteers in their 40s and 50s. The data was analyzed by researchers at the University of Texas Health at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) and other researchers from the Framingham Heart Study.
Dr. Claudia Satizabal, an assistant professor of population health sciences at the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases at UT Health San Antonio, was one of the major researchers in the study. She noted that the study’s new finding was that taking omega-3-rich fatty acids was effective in protecting our brains from many of the indicators of aging as we age.
The study involved 2,183 dementia-free and stroke-free participants, whose average age was 46. The research examined the relationship between concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids in red blood cells and cognitive markers of aging in the brain. The omega-3 red blood cell concentrations in volunteers carrying apolipoprotein Eε4 (APOE 4), the strongest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), were compared as well. The results showed that a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids was associated with better abstract reasoning or logical thinking skills.
Another surprising finding of the study was that those who consumed the least amount of omega-3 fatty acids showed poor brain health outcomes. There was also a subset of the population that had a lower intake of omega-3 fatty acids, but their brain health was not too bad. This suggested that omega-3s benefit your brain, but you need to eat enough of it to observe substantial benefits.
Researchers don’t yet know how omega-3s protect the brain. One theory suggests that because these fatty acids are needed in neuronal membranes when they are replaced by other types of fatty acids, neurons (nerve cells) become unstable. Another explanation may have to do with the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s. “It’s complicated. We don’t know everything yet, but we show that if you increase your omega-3 intake a little bit anyway, you’re protecting your brain,” Satizabal said.
Is It Harmful to Eat More Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
There is no detailed data to determine what amount of omega-3 fatty acids are best for a healthy person to consume daily. However, it is recommended that 1.6 grams (1,600 mg) per day is sufficient to meet human requirements. Some studies have shown that 0.25 grams of EPA and DHA per day are sufficient for adult men and women. For ALA, the NIH recommends an adequate intake dose of 1.6 grams per day for adult males and 1.1 grams per day for adult females.
Excessive intake of omega-3 fatty acids can produce side effects, but they are generally mild and include bad breath, sweat, headache, heartburn, nausea, and diarrhea. One caveat: People taking anticoagulant medications should be careful as consuming excessive amounts of omega-3 fatty acids may result in bleeding problems.
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Read more about the Author of this article, Chris Chen.