What foods could strengthen your memory, improve your problem-solving ability, and make you an even better multi-tasker? In short, can any foods help to improve your brain power?
Are there foods that would increase the size of your brain?
Studies suggest that omega-3s help brain function, specifically visual memory and executive function, including problem-solving, multi-tasking and abstract thinking.
In a new study published in the February 28th volume of the journal Neurology, researchers from the UCLA-based lab of Zaldy S. Tan, MD looked at the role of Omega-3 fatty acids in influencing brain power and overall brain health.
They took 1,575 middle-aged and elderly participants, who were dementia and stroke-free.
Participants were given MRI brain scans and other tests measuring mental function, body mass and omega-3 fatty acid levels (mostly of docosahexaenoic acid –DHA) in their red blood cells.
Researchers found that those whose DHA levels were in the bottom 25 percent had lower brain volumes than those with higher DHA levels. On average, these decreased brain volumes were equivalent to two years worth of brain aging. (Brain volume generally goes down as we age.)
In addition, those whose levels of omega-3 fatty acids were in the bottom 25 percent, scored lower on tests of brain function (specifically visual memory and executive function, including problem-solving, multi-tasking and abstract thinking.)
Now I have to point out, this is a correlational study, so there are some limitations to it. I’m looking forward to someone conducting a randomized, controlled study on the topic. Though this study is still suggestive, it’s informative enough that I thought you’d want to know about it.
Where can you find omega-3 fatty acids?
Most commonly in fish, which is what most of the participants in the high DHA-level group ate.
If you aren’t a fish lover, foods like flax seeds and walnuts also have omega-3s, as do soybeans and to a lesser extent, tofu.
We have the opportunity to positively change our brains through targeted lifestyle changes.
A healthy diet is an important part of a healthy brain but there are other ways to use neuroplasticity for improved health, both for you and for your patients.
Relationships, for instance, are important for brain function, especially in children.
Relationships are so important to brain health that we are dedicating one whole segment of the New Brain Science 2012 Series to how relationships effect the development of the young brain.
We will be talking to Dan Siegel, MD on Bringing the Best Out in Kids: Strategies for Working with the Developing Mind, with topics including:
- How relationships affect the developing brain
- How to integrate both sides of the brain for optimal child development
- Strategies for teaching kids to handle their emotions
- How to help a child learn to pay attention to their inner self
- The importance of the social brain: Teaching empathy to kids
It’s free to listen at the time of broadcast, but you need to sign up.
Knowing the benefits of omega-3s to brain health, do you and your patients get enough of these fatty acids? Please leave a comment below and tell us some of your best ways to get them into your diet.