This is one of your essential fats. Essential in dietary terms means the body can’t manufacture enough so we must get them on our food. One main source is oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring and anchovies). Who eats enough of these everyday? Most people don’t.
Omega 3 was first linked with low rates of cardiovascular disease in the 70’s but more recently has also been linked with improved brain function.
Over 60% of the brain is made from fat and a large proportion is the omega 3 fat DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid). DHA is needed for messages to be passed from one nerve cell to another and for cell renewal and reducing nerve cell damage that is characteristic of dementia. Without omega 3 the brain simply wouldn’t be able to function.
A typical Western diet is high in fat but most of it is omega 6 which is high in processed foods, meat and dairy and we do need omega 6 but it’s when the balance is not maintained that problems can start. The should be in the ratio of 2:1 omega 6: omega 3 not 20:1 which is more common.
EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) is another important omega 3 and has significant anti-inflammatory properties. This may help Alzheimer’s patients where inflammation may be part of the problem. Omega 3 fats have been shown to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease and stroke and these are known risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. There are now several studies that have shown a positive impact on mild cognitive impairment and early stage Alzheimer’s of supplementation with EPA/DHA.
The best food sources of omega 3 are oily fish, nuts and seeds but if these are not eaten in sufficient quantities then supplementation is a good option but choose a purified version free from environmental toxins. Many cheap options have not bee purified and could do more harm than good.
Of course omega 3’s are also important for children, improving cognitive function, attention, memory and learning. Make sure supplements are age appropriate.