Scientists are now highlighting the importance of a fish oil rich diet for maintaining optimal brain health and preventing the onset of dementia.
A new study found that a fatty acid found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout and seafood such as prawns and mussels can boost memory function by 15 per cent.
Over a six month period 176 healthy adults were given supplements containing DHA an Omega-3 fatty acid of which during this time memory and cognitive function were assessed and compared to a placebo group.
It is believed that fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega 3 fatty acid found in fish and seafood is one of the most highly concentrated fats in the brain.
It could be key in preventing Alzheimer’s disease, one of the most common forms of dementia characterized by a decline in mental abilities, such as memory and reasoning and often associated with increasing age.
Lead researcher Professor Welma Stonehouse of Massey University in New Zealand said: ‘This is the first robust study to show that a DHA-rich supplement can improve some aspects of memory functioning in young healthy adults.
‘The cognitive functions shown to be affected by the DHA-rich fish oil, namely memory and working memory, are among the most important functions of our brains for numerous everyday activities, such as working, driving, shopping, studying, playing sports, etc.
‘Maintaining brain health and getting your brain to perform at its optimal capacity is just as vital as maintaining physical well being and health.’
DHA, is one of the most highly concentrated fats in the brain and known to play a vital role in the structure and functioning of the brain.
But as the body cannot effectively make this fatty acid it must be consumed as part of the diet.
Researchers highlighted that as many people fail to eat enough fish and seafood, the brain’s performance is potentially compromised.
The study showed that male participants who took a DHA supplement demonstrated 15 per cent faster working memory while women had a seven per cent improvement in the speed of episodic memory.
Professor Stonehouse added: ‘These findings contribute to the growing body of research showing that omega-3’s play a very important role in brain function throughout the life cycle, even in healthy cognitively intact individuals.’
This is one of the few studies to investigate the effects of DHA on cognitive function in healthy adults with no pre-existing cognitive disorder.
Dementia affects around 570,000 people in England, with Alzheimer’s disease responsible for around 60 per cent of dementia cases.
The National Health Service (NHS) states a healthy diet should include at least two portions of fish a week, including one of oily fish.