As Woody Allen once said "The brain is my second favourite organ."
Already hailed for promoting healthy hearts - it seems that taking a daily omega 3 capsule also has beneficial effects in the brain.
A study this year at the University in Queensland testing omega 3 on children with ADHD saw improved reading skills, spelling, and a drop in oppositional behaviour and decreases in hyperactivity. The scientists concluded that - "If DHA supplementation can improve sustained attention and frontal lobe function in healthy children then future research should explore the benefits of omega 3 supplements for children who have development-delayed school performances."
For schizophrenia there is also seemingly good news.
Antipsychotic drugs often do not sit well with lots of patients and can have side effects. Omega 3 supplements, on the other hand, are generally well tolerated and easy to take. Just recently an international team from Austria, Australia and Switzerland tested people at particularly high risk of developing psychosis. Half of the individuals with a family history of the illness took 1.2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids for 12 weeks, while the other half took a placebo.
Based on the results, the investigators estimate that one high-risk adult could be protected from developing psychosis for every four treated over a year. They believe the omega-3 fatty acids found in the supplements may alter brain signalling in the brain with beneficial effects.
Alison Cobb, of the mental health charity Mind, said: "...This is hugely preferable to treating them with antipsychotics, which come with a range of problems from weight gain to sexual dysfunction, whereas omega-3s are actually beneficial to their general state of health."
For those people suffering from depression there also seems to be value in taking omega 3 supplements.
Several scientific studies have highlighted that abnormal cell membrane fatty acid composition is related to depression, and that taking omega-3, appears to help normalise fatty acids in brain.
A recent meta-analysis of 14 studies looking at the levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids in depressive patients found that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid levels were significantly lower.
As 1 in 4 individuals will suffer from depression at some point in their lives, it is good to know that there is a safe and natural way not only to alleviate the symptoms of depression but also that taking omega 3 could reduce the possibility of developing the condition.
All told the evidence of the benefits of omega 3 in maintaining a healthy brain for yourself and your children seems to be gathering pace. For veggies and vegans there are companies like Nuique who supply fish free, high potency natural omega 3 made form algae.
SOME FASCINATING BRAIN FACTS.
Weight. The weight of the human brain is about 3lbs.
Grey matter. The brain's grey matter is made up of neurons, and the glial cells which maintain them. Neurons are made up of axons - which carry the nerve impulse, and the dendrites - branched nerve endings -which gather and transmit signals between cells.
White matter. The white matter is also made up of dendrites and axons, which have a sheath around them and create the network by which neurons send their signals from one part of the brain to another.
Neurons. Your brain contains about100 billion neurons. Synapses are the connecting areas between neurons. There are anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 synapses for each neuron.
No pain. There are no pain receptors in the brain, so the brain can feel no pain, but it interprets what is causing the pain, how bad it is, and what to do about it.
Fat. The human brain is the fattest organ in the body and consists of at least 60% fat. About a third of the fat is made up of long chain omega 3 compounds containing DHA and EPA.
So keep your mind alert and healthy - A study of one million students in New York showed that students who ate lunches that did not include artificial flavours and preservatives, 14% better on IQ tests than students who ate lunches with these additives. Of course the junk food tasted better!
Now it's always a good idea to exercise your brain, because mental activity stimulates the creation of new neurons throughout your whole life. But don't skip on the sleep either because when you sleep, you're virtually paralysed because your brain creates a hormone to prevent you from acting out your dreams. About 12% of people dream in black and white. Oh and it's nonsense that humans only use 10% of their brains; each part of the brain has a purpose. Though scientists have yet to study politicians' brains so this fact might be right in some cases.
And as for that bright idea? While awake, your brain generates between 10 and 23 watts of power, that's enough energy to power a light bulb!
Let's end with my favourite quote on the old grey matter is from the American poet Robert Frost.
"The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office."
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