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A recent study published in the Public Library of Sciences journal sought to determine the effect of Omega-3s on memory function. Healthy young subjects were supplemented with 2 grams of Omega-3 EPA + DHA daily (930 mg EPA + 750 DHA) for six months.

Over six months levels of the Omega-3s in red blood cell membranes (the best measure of tissue levels—where the omega-3s work) were increased in association with improvement in working memory. The researchers also tried to determine whether Omega-3 intake affected dopamine storage in the striatum of the brain, as measured by PET scans (positron-emission transmission scans). They did not find an effect, however, suggesting that dopamine storage in the striatum is not the mechanism by which Omega-3s affect working memory.

The interesting take away from this study is that young healthy people—who already have relatively good memory—were able to improve their working memory by taking Omega-3s. The researchers noted, “Before seeing this data, I would have said it was impossible to move young healthy individuals above their cognitive best. 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.”

“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,” stated Matthew Muldoon, an investigator of the study, “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.”

More studies will be needed to determine just how these beneficial fats work in the brain to improve memory. In the meantime, keep taking your Omega-3!

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For the first time since the US government has been collecting data on it, the top five disabilities affecting U.S. children are no longer physical problems, but rather, mental problems, as reported recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Additionally, almost 8 percent of children now have a disability that limits their activity, a four-fold increase since 1960.

One of the suggested reasons for the increase in mental health disorders is the, “exposure to new or more environmental toxins during pregnancy and early childhood.” Improvements in diagnosis were also suggested as a contributor to the increased rate. Although conclusions about what has caused the increase are premature, we will certainly be seeing more research in the coming years.

“In terms of reduced economic outcomes, mental health issues in childhood are a serious problem, way bigger than obesity,” stated James P. Smith, a researcher of child health histories. The report stated that only about half of children with mental health problems get any kind of services, highlighting the gravity of the issue.

Bruce Lanphear, professor of health sciences at Simon Fraser University in Canada, stated that prevention of children’s disabilities in the first place will be more effective than treating them. “Children, who are more vulnerable than adults to adverse effects from environmental toxins are sometimes exposed to numerous chemicals that may be contributing to mental and developmental problems,” stated Lanphear.

The report went on to cite studies linking environmental exposures to mental health in children, including, “the association of black carbon (an airborne byproduct of fossil-fuel combustion) with reduced verbal and nonverbal intelligence and poor memory; of low lead exposure with lower IQ scores; prenatal exposure to tobacco with ADHD; and organophosphate pesticides, mercury, and PCBs with ADHD. Lamphear’s own research found associations between prenatal exposure to bisphenol A and depressive symptoms, anxiety, and hyperactivity in young girls.”

We can no longer deny or turn our backs on the fact that environmental toxins are taking an enormous toll on our health.

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