It seems like one of the things that is always on my patients' wish list is better cognitive function. I think it's probably because of the increased demands of this ever-faster-moving world. But whatever the reasons, most people want their brains to work faster and better. Here's a brand new study that just appeared in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that can help with that.
The authors start off by stating two very important facts. First, the omega-3 fat DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) "is important for brain function." And second, "Its status is dependent on dietary intakes. Therefore, individuals who consume diets low in omega-3 fats may cognitively benefit from DHA supplementation." As I have pointed out before, the American diet has dramatically shifted in the past 100 years away from an optimal intake of omega-3 fats. This leaves many of us deficient in DHA. Realizing this, the researchers set out to discover whether taking a supplement in DHA improves brain function.
To do this they enrolled 176 healthy men and women between the ages of 18-45. All of them had a diet that was low in DHA. As you probably already know, DHA is a principle ingredient of fish oil. It is also found in grass-fed animals. So unless you are a significant eater of fish, the odds are that like these subjects you aren't getting enough DHA.
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The participants' brain function was measured by using a battery of computer tests that analyzed memory, attention, reaction time, attention, and processing speed. Then they gave half of the group 1.16 grams a day of DHA and the other half a placebo. The study went on for six months. And at the end they retested everyone.
The results showed that the brains of the subjects getting the DHA were working twice as fast as those getting the placebo. They didn't see any side effects in any of the subjects. Not bad for one supplement!
So if your diet is not as good as it ought to be, or if you don't eat much fish or grass-fed animals and you want a brain that works twice as fast, try taking a gram of DHA a day. Nordic Naturals makes a great 500 mg DHA capsule. Just take two of those for six months.
Finding your Real Cures,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
REF: Stonehouse W, Conlon CA, Podd J, et al. DHA supplementation improved both memory and reaction time in healthy young adults: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 May;97(5):1134-43.
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