Brain scans have revealed the beneficial nature omega-3 acids have on the brains of people susceptible to dementia.
The acids – commonly found in oily fish products such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines – might help prevent the condition by promoting blood flow to the brain, researchers have observed.
They added that a diet of oily fish can improve the understanding and retention of new information, as well as improve overall emotional and mental health.
The study’s author, Professor Daniel Amen, of Amen Clinics in Costa Mesa, California, said: “This is very important research because it shows a correlation between lower omega-3 fatty acid levels and reduced brain blood flow to regions important for learning, memory, depression and dementia.”
The researchers took brain scans from 166 people to measure blood flow. The sample was split into two groups depending on their omage-3 consumption.
They were each tested while carrying out computer tasks and other mental puzzles.
The study found that people with high omega-3 levels have more blood flowing into the brain regions associated with memory and learning.
Likewise, they were also better at acquiring and understanding knowledge.
Co-author Professor William Harris, of South Dakota University, said: “Although we have considerable evidence omega-3 levels are associated with better cardiovascular health, the role of the “fish oil” fatty acids in mental health and brain physiology is just beginning to be explored.
“This study opens the door to the possibility that relatively simple dietary changes could favourably impact cognitive function.”