Flexible Brain

Omega-3s help keep neurons in peak health—a must for sharp cognition.

March/April 2018

by Lisa James


You walk into a room and forget why. Or you finish a crucial work e-mail and hit Send before you add a subject line. Or you’re making a point in conversation and can’t retrive the word you want.

The worst part? It’s happening more and more.

One fear that accompanies advancing years is the fear of a weakening mind. That’s especially true at a time when many people, by choice or need, are working far past what was once considered “retirement” age.

Science has discovered a whole range of brain-boosting nutrients, known as nootropics, that support optimal cognition and memory. And researchers are taking a new look at an old standby: omega-3.

Oiling the Brain

Omega-3s are best known for promoting cardiovascular health. However, many people don’t realize that omega-3 fats, especially DHA and EPA, are just as crucial to the brain. They help keep the membranes surrounding neurons flexible, allowing them to better communicate with each other. These omega-3s also help protect neurons against inflammation, oxidation and other sources of damage.

One of the biggest sources of damage is the aging process itself. Over time, neurons lose their ability to remain supple and to generate the energy they need to function. This interferes with learning new information and recalling data already stored in memory.

It is believed that EPA and DHA can help fight these changes. In one study, women with the highest omega-3 levels in their blood had greater brain volume overall and greater volume in the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with memory.

Powerful Cofactors

As critically important as they are, DHA and EPA—particularly in the active triglyceride form—aren’t the only nutritional factors that can support optimal brain function.

Like omega-3s, astaxanthin has been found to help keep neurons pliable. Research suggests that it fights oxidative stress, suppresses the formation of substances that can poison the cell and promotes neurogenesis, or the development of new nerve cells.

Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ), found in a range of foods, is another potent nootropic. It not only fights oxidation but also boosts the functioning of mitochondria, which serve as cellular power plants within neurons, and is even believed to encourage the development of new mitochondria. That’s important because poor mitochondrial function becomes increasingly common with age. PQQ has also been found to stimulate production of nerve growth factor, a protein molecule required for the formation and maintenance of cells crucial to cognition, learning and memory.

Curcumin, the substance that gives turmeric its rich gold color, is another nutrient with an impressive list of benefits. That includes its ability to increase blood flow to the brain and to stimulate new brain cell creation.

Curcumin is poorly absorbed by the body. That’s why quality supplements use a patented form called Longvida, which has been designed for superior absorption. (Bioperine, a black pepper extract, also maximizes nutrient absorption.)

No one wants to lose their mental edge as they age. Nootropic supplementation with omega-3 and its cofactors can help you stay sharp.

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