The Benefits of Omega 3 Supplementation for Mental and Neurocognitive Health

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements are well known for their ability to support heart health, but clinical research also shows that omega-3s promote enhanced mental performance [1, 2].

For instance, omega-3 supplements boost the production of dopamine, which is an important chemical in the brain. Dopamine plays a role in memory, learning, attention, and emotions, and it also helps target hyperactivity [2].

Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids are even linked to an increased risk of developing various psychiatric disorders [1]. This means that omega-3 supplements are a good alternative for improving mental health [2].

One study involved three months of omega-3 supplementation for a group of children with behavior, psychosocial, and learning difficulties. The children in the study demonstrated improvements in spelling, reading, behavior and demonstrated enhanced language development after consistently taking the supplements [2].

Omega-3 fatty acids were subsequently described as beneficial nutrients that help address behavioral (e.g., hyperactivity) and educational problems. For children with developmental and emotional difficulties, omega-3 supplementation has been shown to target lethargy and enhance their use of gestures [3, 4].

In addition to targeting certain chemicals in the brain that improve mental performance and behavior, omega-3 fatty acids appear to be useful due to their ability to target inflammation of the nerves in the brain.

This is important as inflammation has been shown to contribute to certain psychiatric conditions and neurocognitive decline [5]. Omega-3 supplementation combats this type of inflammation and in doing so, improves brain health [6-9]. Therefore, maintaining healthy levels of omega-3 in the brain is vital toward preventing and addressing mental health issues.

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  1. Richardson AJ, Montgomery P. The Oxford-Durham study: a randomized, controlled trial of dietary supplementation with fatty acids in children with developmental coordination disorder. Pediatrics. 2005;115(5):1360-6.
  2. Healy-Stoffel M, Levant B. N-3 (Omega-3) Fatty Acids: Effects on Brain Dopamine Systems and Potential Role in the Etiology and Treatment of Neuropsychiatric Disorders. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2018;17(3):216-232.
  3. Sheppard, K.W., Boone, K.M., Gracious, B. et al. Effect of Omega-3 and -6 Supplementation on Language in Preterm Toddlers Exhibiting Autism Spectrum Disorder Symptoms. J Autism Dev Disord. 2017;47(11):3358-3369.
  4. Cheng Y-S, Tseng P-T, Chen Y-W, et al. Supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids may improve hyperactivity, lethargy, and stereotypy in children with autism spectrum disorders: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2017;13:2531-2543.
  5. Madore C, et al. Neuroinflammation in Autism: Plausible Role of Maternal Inflammation, Dietary Omega 3, and Microbiota. Neural Plast. 2016;2016:3597209.
  6. Amminger GF, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation in children with autism. Biol Psychiatry. 2007;61(4):551-553.
  7. Bent S, et al. A pilot randomized controlled trial of omega-3 fatty acids for autism spectrum disorder. J Autism Develop Disord. 2011;41(5):545-554.
  8. Meguid NA, et al. Role of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the management of Egyptian children with autism. Clin Bioch. 2008;41(13):1044-1048.
  9. Ooi YP, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids in the management of autism spectrum disorders. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2015;69(8):969-971.

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