2010 February 02 Tuesday
Fish Oil Might Keep You Sane

Go crazy for fish so you don't just go crazy.

Individuals at extremely high risk of developing psychosis appear less likely to develop psychotic disorders following a 12-week course of fish oil capsules containing long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, according to a report in the February issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

"Early treatment in schizophrenia and other psychoses has been linked to better outcomes," the authors write as background information in the article. "Given that subclinical psychotic symptoms may predict psychotic disorder and psychosis proneness in a population may be related to the rate of psychotic disorder, intervention in at-risk individuals holds the promise of even better outcomes, with the potential to prevent full-blown psychotic disorders."

By Randall Parker    2010 February 02 10:27 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (11)
2009 December 21 Monday
DHA And EPA Reduce Sensory Overload In Mice

Omega 3 fatty acids from fish make mice less likely to overreact to loud noises. The idea here is maybe the same happens with humans.

WASHINGTON — The omega-3 essential fatty acids commonly found in fatty fish and algae help animals avoid sensory overload, according to research published by the American Psychological Association. The finding connects low omega-3s to the information-processing problems found in people with schizophrenia; bipolar, obsessive-compulsive, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders; Huntington's disease; and other afflictions of the nervous system.

The study, reported in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience, provides more evidence that fish is brain food. The key finding was that two omega-3 fatty acids – docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – appear to be most useful in the nervous system, maybe by maintaining nerve-cell membranes.

"It is an uphill battle now to reverse the message that 'fats are bad,' and to increase omega-3 fats in our diet," said Norman Salem Jr., PhD, who led this study at the Laboratory of Membrane Biochemistry and Biophysics at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

LNA (alpha-linolenic acid), the DHA precursor fat found in plant foods (e.g. in flax oil) does not provide this benefit.

In the study, the researchers fed four different diets with no or varying types and amounts of omega-3s to four groups of pregnant mice and then their offspring. They measured how the offspring, once grown, responded to a classic test of nervous-system function in which healthy animals are exposed to a sudden loud noise. Normally, animals flinch. However, when they hear a softer tone in advance, they flinch much less. It appears that normal nervous systems use that gentle warning to prepare instinctively for future stimuli, an adaptive process called sensorimotor gating.

Only the mice raised on DHA and EPA, but not their precursor of LNA, showed normal, adaptive sensorimotor gating by responding in a significantly calmer way to the loud noises that followed soft tones. The mice in all other groups, when warned, were startled nearly as much by the loud sound. When DHA was deficient, the nervous system most obviously did not downshift. That resulted in an abnormal state that could leave animals perpetually startled and easily overwhelmed by sensory stimuli.

DHA is found in algae and that is why fish have so much DHA. Some of the DHA found in capsules comes from growing algae.

Get easily distracted or rattled by noises? A diet big in salmon or sardines might be worth a try.

By Randall Parker    2009 December 21 10:03 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (7)
2008 July 09 Wednesday
Diet Matters For Brain Performance

A review of recent research work on the brain and nutrition finds food choices impact how well your brain functions.

In addition to helping protect us from heart disease and cancer, a balanced diet and regular exercise can also protect the brain and ward off mental disorders.
 
"Food is like a pharmaceutical compound that affects the brain," said Fernando Gómez-Pinilla, a UCLA professor of neurosurgery and physiological science who has spent years studying the effects of food, exercise and sleep on the brain. "Diet, exercise and sleep have the potential to alter our brain health and mental function. This raises the exciting possibility that changes in diet are a viable strategy for enhancing cognitive abilities, protecting the brain from damage and counteracting the effects of aging."
 
Gómez-Pinilla analyzed more than 160 studies about food's affect on the brain; the results of his analysis appear in the July issue of the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience and are available online at www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v9/n7/abs/nrn2421.html.
 
Omega-3 fatty acids — found in salmon, walnuts and kiwi fruit — provide many benefits, including improving learning and memory and helping to fight against such mental disorders as depression and mood disorders, schizophrenia, and dementia, said Gómez-Pinilla, a member of UCLA's Brain Research Institute and Brain Injury Research Center.

Click through and read more details. It is all pretty predictable. Fish, vegetables, and other foods generally regarded as health are good for your brain. Junk food reduces brain performance.

In contrast to the healthy effects of diets that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, diets high in trans fats and saturated fats adversely affect cognition, studies indicate.

Junk food and fast food negatively affect the brain's synapses, said Gómez-Pinilla, who eats fast food less often since conducting this research. Brain synapses and several molecules related to learning and memory are adversely affected by unhealthy diets, he said.

Emerging research indicates that the effects of diet on the brain, combined with the effects of exercise and a good night's sleep, can strengthen synapses and provide other cognitive benefits, he added.

If you can't bring yourself to change your diet in order to reduce your cancer or heart risk 20, 30, 40 years from now how about improving your diet in order to boost your brain performance now?

By Randall Parker    2008 July 09 10:58 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
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