So, what is brain health?
The brain is the most signiﬁcant and complex organ of the human body. Increasingly, we are becoming aware that certain nutrients may help to safeguard brain health, which refers to the ability to concentrate, remember, learn, play and maintain a clear and active mind.
- It is now recognised that a healthy brain is needed to live a fuller and longer life.
- Brain health supports human thoughts, planned actions and emotional connections.
- Maintaining brain health across the course of a lifetime can help to optimise levels of independence.
- Preserving brain health is also important in the mission to curtail heavy healthcare and economic costs that poor brain health can bring.
- Over time, poor brain health can manifest in several different ways but characteristically as cognitive impairment or dementia.
- A host of underlying cellular and molecular changes within the brain including oxidative damage, mitochondrial impairment and alterations in glucose-energy metabolism and nerve inﬂammation have been claimed to contribute to cognitive decline and brain ageing.
And what are omega fatty acids?
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important components of cell membranes and are precursors to many other substances in the body, such as those involved with regulating blood pressure and inflammatory responses.
- Alpha-linoleic acid (ALA, omega-3) and linoleic acid (LA, omega-6) are essential fatty acids that are not produced in adequate amounts by humans. For these reasons they need to be consumed from dietary or supplement sources. Once ingested ALA and LA produce other fatty acids:
– ALA yields eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) omega-3 fatty acids.
– Docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) is the intermediate fatty acid between EPA and DHA.
– LA yields the omega-6 fatty acids gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) and arachidonic acid (ARA).
EPA and DHA produce anti-inﬂammatory signalling molecules whilst ARA generates signalling molecules that can exacerbate inﬂammation, which shows that whilst we need some omega-6 fatty acids for health, Western diets provide an overabundance of these which can displace omega-3 fatty acids. Subsequently, proportionally higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids are needed to protect aspects of health, including brain health.