Nutrients for the Brain
Omega 3’s – Nutrients for the Brain
Grandma was right. Fish really is “brain food” due to its omega-3 content. It is also rich in high quality protein, selenium and vitamin B12 and provides iron, zinc and iodine. But it is the omega-3s which place fish apart from other meats.
Oily fish such as mackerel, herrings, sardines and salmon contain
over 500mg long chain omega-3 EPA and DHA in a serve with some as high
as 3000mg. Less oiily fish and other seafood still contribute
significant amounts so no need to give up the oysters and prawns. Some
of the foods enriched with long chain omega-3s, such as certain
varieties of milk, bread, eggs and yoghurt, help boost intakes too
especially when they are consumed everyday. Lean red meat, liver and
kidneys contain small amounts of EPA and DHA too.
Building block of the brain
Long chain omega-3 DHA is a building block for neutral tissue,
especially the brain’s gray matter and the retina. Animal studies have
shown that reduced DHA levels can lead to dramatic changes in the
brain’s structure and function including the basic senses of taste,
sight and hearing as well as memory and learning.
These effects are due to changes in the DHA levels in cell membranes
which influence their function. the roles of long chain omega-3s in
gene expression and as the foundation for the production of other
bioactive substances are also important.
The developing infant
During pregnancy, DHA is passed from mother to infant. Breast milk
contains DHA but the levels vary depending on the mother’s diet. There
is rapid growth of the infant’s brain in the first 2 years of life, so
a ready supply of DHA is important.
Children need Omega-3s
But what about older children? The Omega-3 Centre recently released
a report on the benefits of omega-3s for children. A panel of experts
reviewed the current scientific evidence and concluded that there is
good evidence to support the role of the long chain omega-3s, EPA and
DHA, in brain growth and development, behaviour, attention and learning
with some evidence for benefit in relation to asthma and mood.There is
some interesting evidence about omega-3s’ role in bone growth as well.
As Australian study has recently confirmed earlier UK research that
many children with symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity and
inattention can benefit from omega-3 supplementation.
All children need omega-3s in their diet for good health. Yet we
know that they eat very little fish. One study in NSW indicated that
most children eat fish less than once a week. It’s time to encourage
our children to enjoy more fish and seafood.
The ageing brain and omega-3s
The research findings are mounting up to indicate that older brains
need omega-3s too. Long chain omega-3s are associated with a reduced
risk of age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
Depression and dementia are in the top ten leading causes of disease
burden in Australia. We know omega-3s are good for our heart – the
evidence is getting stronger everyday for their benefits to our brain.
Add omega-3s to your menu
Here are a few economical ideas for boosting your intake of long chain omega-3s by converting your usual recipe:
- Fish Pie: Replace the mince in Shepard’s pie with gemfish
fillets cooked in white sauce with onions, carrots and peas. Top with
mashed potato with grated Parmesan for added flavour.
- Seafood Pasta: Whip up a simple pasta dish with marinara mix
cooked in a tomato-based pasta sauce, parsley, black pepper and crushed
garlic served over your favourite pasta with a green salad and crusty
- Fish Cakes: Make fish cakes with mashed canned tuna – check
the label for a high EPA and DHA brand – mashed potato, finely chopped
onion and a little flour. For a more adult flavour add Thai seasonings.
Total long chain Omega-3 content of some common foods
|Seafoods||Serve size (g)
||EPA & DHA mg
|Other foods||EPA & DHA mg
|King salmon||150||> 3000||Enriched foods such as bread, yoghurt, eggs, milk
Varies but at least
|Sardines canned||75||>1000||Eggs regular||80|
|Blue mackerel||150||700||Beef and lamb||30|
|Hoki (Blue Grenadier)||150||615||Milk regular||0|
|Gemfish||150||600||Vegetable oils & spreads||0|
|Blue eye cod||150||465||Regular bread||0|
|Snapper||150||330||Cereals, rice, oats, etc||0|
|Sydney rock oysters||100||300||Pasta||0|
|Giant tiger prawns||100||100||Vegetables||0|