Key nutrients for preserving healthy brain function:
Omega-3 fatty acids: The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are critical for healthy brain function and development throughout all stages of life. DHA comprises 40% of the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in the brain and 60% of the PUFAs in the retina of the eyes. Both EPA and DHA play important roles in the developing baby’s brain. Several studies have correlated pregnant women’s fish intake or fish oil supplementation with higher scores for their children on tests of intelligence and brain function in early childhood (5).
When animals are fed diets without omega-3 fatty acids, the amount of DHA in their brains decreases, and they tend to experience deficits in learning and memory. In older adults, lower levels of DHA in the blood have been associated with smaller brain size, a sign of accelerated brain aging (7, 8).
Several studies have indicated that healthy omega-3 levels may influence brain function in people with more mild types of cognitive impairment or age-related decline (8). Recent studies also indicate that omega-3 fatty acid consumption may help promote a positive mood (9).
Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin has long been primarily associated with bone health. In the last twenty years or so, research has revealed that this essential nutrient plays a critical role in virtually every organ system, often related to the key role played by vitamin D in balancing immune function. We now understand that vitamin D is essential for brain formation, structure maintenance, function, and longevity. Brain cells manifest vitamin D receptors and vitamin D's biologically active form (1,25 hydroxyvitaminD3) has shown neuroprotective effects including the clearance of various protein debris. Recent studies have confirmed an association between mood, clear thinking and vitamin D deficiency. (10)