Omega-3 essential fatty acids — found in fish oil and grass-fed livestock — are not only good for the heart, but also for the mind, new research shows.
In the first study of its kind, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found healthy young adults — ages 18 to 25 years — can improve their working memory by increasing their omega-3 fatty acid intake.
The findings, published online in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS One, add to the growing list of health benefits tied to the essential oils.
“Before seeing this data, I would have said it was impossible to move young healthy individuals above their cognitive best,” said lead researcher Bita Moghaddam, a Pittsburgh neuroscientist. “We found that members of this population can enhance their working memory performance even further, despite their already being at the top of their cognitive game.”
To reach their conclusions, the Pitt research team recruited healthy young men and women to boost their omega-3 intake with supplements for six months. Before the study, all participants took a working memory quiz in which they were shown a series of letters and numbers.
After six months of taking Lovaza — an omega-3 supplement approved by the Federal Drug Administration — the participants were retested and scored better on the measures of working memory.
“So many of the previous studies have been done with the elderly or people with medical conditions, leaving this unique population of young adults unaddressed,” said Matthew Muldoon, a co-researcher. “But what about our highest-functioning periods? Can we help the brain achieve its full potential by adapting our healthy behaviors in our young adult life? We found that we absolutely can.”