A cost-Effective Way of Preserving Cognitive Functions and Living a Longer Life
Omega-3's have been identified as a preventable cause of death
It’s been a heartbreaking weekend, I hope you’re hanging in there. This isn’t a political newsletter so I am not going to touch on it but during this opening paragraph I want my Neuro ladies to know I’m here, we’re in this together 💔
I have written extensively on today’s topic and will continue to do so as it is quite clear that Omega-3 fatty acids, both in human studies and in animal studies, seem to be an effective way of preserving brain health, improving cardiovascular health and increasing healthspan.
Since science is ever evolving, we’re going to touch on some of the latest headlines such as;
How DHA crosses the blood brain barrier
The correlation between all-cause mortality and low omega-3 index levels
Why EPA/ DHA is necessary for brain health
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EPA and DHA - A crash course
Fats, in general, are a component of a healthy diet. Besides increasing the palatability of your food, fats—at the molecular level—serve as a major source of energy, a critical component of cell membranes, a vehicle for nutrients in the body, and a precursor for certain hormones such as prostaglandins, which help cells to communicate.
One of the most essential types of fats we need is called omega-3 fatty acids, an unsaturated fat that can not be made by the human body and must be obtained through diets. There are three main omega-3 fatty acids:
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) that are commonly found in fatty fish such as salmon (and their roe), tuna, mackerel, sardines, and herrings.
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) — short-chain PUFA found in plants, nuts, and seeds. ALA mainly serves as a precursor for EPA and DHA, albeit at a low conversion rate (e.g., only 5% to 7% of ALA is converted to EPA, and 0.013% to <5% is converted to DHA).
The long-chain PUFA (i.e., EPA and DHA) are essential because of their direct beneficial effect on the central nervous system and are shown to contribute to cardiovascular health. However, when it comes to the brain, DHA is typically found 250–300 times higher than EPA, making it the predominant fatty acid (~30% of total lipids) in the brain.
Depending on the type of components it binds to, DHA can exist in different forms. This affects how it is absorbed, distributed, and metabolized in the body. Naturally, DHA exists in two forms—triglyceride (TAG)-DHA and phospholipid (PL)-DHA.
How Do These Cross The Blood-Brain Barrier?
When taken orally, PL-DHA enters the liver and is converted into either the free form DHA or an esterified form called lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC)-DHA. Then, they are transported in different ways across the BBB to the brain.
Free DHAs cross the BBB via passive diffusion, where the molecules move into the outer membrane of the cells (called leaflet) and travel through the membrane to the other side of the cells and into the brain.
LPC-DHA, however, is transported through a specialized transporter called Mfsd2a, which allows it to travel through the inner membrane of the cells lining the BBB. This helps the LPC-DHA bypass the tight junction on the leaflet between the cells, and is thus, transported more efficiently to the brain.
Why They Are Essential To Brain Health?
EPA and DHA are essential for proper fetal brain and eye development and healthy aging. In particular, DHA is highly concentrated in the cell membranes, including neurons, and has been shown to increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the brain. Hence, it is believed to be vital for the proper functioning of the nervous system, such as cell communication and neuroplasticity.
EPA, on the other hand, was shown to be more influential on behavior and mood and plays a role in brain health by regulating cellular inflammation in the brain — an event that contributes to the pathogenesis of neurological diseases like stroke and dementia.
What An EPA and DHA Deficiency Is
To date, there is no official recommended daily allowance for EPA and DHA. However, the European food safety authority recommends between 250 and 500 mg/day for European adults. Whereas the National Institute of Health recommends pregnant or breastfeeding women to consume 8–12 ounces of salmon, herring, sardines, or trout per week.
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Until next time,