Tuesday, March 13, 2007

EPA - omega 3 fatty acid, might boost brain power

Supplement 'boosts' brain power BBC News via QualityCounts 3/12/07

A super small non clinical study - all of 4 people. This is only notable because of Professor Basant Puri's previous work with EPA and the marked results of this study.
"Tests of VegEPA, in four overweight youngsters, showed improvement in reading, concentration, and memory. Brain scans showed three years worth of development in just three months in the children...experts warned the study was extremely small and the current evidence on the benefits of fatty acid supplements was inconclusive...Tests done at the end of the three-month study found the children showed an increase in reading age of well over a year, their handwriting became neater and more accurate and they paid more attention in class...Brain scans which identified a chemical called N-Acetylaspartate (NAA) which is linked to the growth of nerve fibres in the brain also showed dramatic changes..."In three months you might expect to see a small NAA increase. "But we saw as much growth as you would normally see in three years. "It was as if these were the brains of children three years older. It means you have more connections and greater density of nerve cells, in the same way a tree grows more branches."... Professor Puri said he believed that it was EPA specifically which conferred the benefits which was why studies of fish oil supplements which also contain a fatty acid called DHA showed confusing results..."

More on this at Timesonline.

A full clinical trial will be led by Professor Puri and maybe then we'll have a better understanding of EPA's effects on our brains. I have to say the DHA vs EPA debate which has been going on for a decade seems to have little resolution which is frustrating. I had expected that by now there would be better delineation of what each fatty acid does in the brain, whether there is an optimum ratio for prenatal, postnatal nutrition and for children, adults, men and women. Also what is best for depression and other disorders? (some answers seem to have come in the last few years - but also lots of conflicting results) Another question is to what extent do these fatty acids compete/compliment in the brain? Rest of the body?

I notice there are a couple of studies one at Harvard and one at Stanford that might help shed some light on this debate... or not. Results in 2008? Stay tuned.

Previous posts on fish oil.

DogVitals antioxidant supplement for your dogs health

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