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Fish Oil, Brain Health, and Longevity
Since the 1980s, there has been much debate about whether supplemental fish oils promote health or are just heavily promoted. But after four decades of research, it’s hard to ignore the science that now strongly suggests fish oils support longevity, cognitive function, and brain and heart health.
In this article, I’ll discuss the benefits of fish oil for brain health and longevity.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Air Pollution
One of the greatest threats to our health and longevity is air pollution, which filters down into the water we drink and even the organic foods we eat. In a 2020 review of 104 studies on the effect of microscopic particulate matter (PM) on health and longevity, researchers recommended changing the World Health Organization’s standard on acceptable pollution levels.
This meta analysis concluded that there is clear evidence that even low levels of PM are associated with increased mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and lung cancer.
In a recent study published in the journal Neurology, scientists measured the effects of fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) on protecting the brain from air pollutant neurotoxins. Researchers found that PM build up in the white matter and hippocampus of the brain is linked to stroke, dementia, and cognitive decline. White matter connects brain cells with nerve cells, while the hippocampus governs cognitive function and memory. This study found that women who had higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the white matter of their brains were protected from damaging air pollution neurotoxins.
See also Air Pollution Particles Found in Brain
Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Mental Health
Studies have found that the omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil (eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids) are required for the transmission of nerve and cognitive signals in the brain.
In Ayurveda, we believe that old protective emotions are held in the waxy myelin sheaths in the brain’s white matter. These emotions are remnants of old traumas that we hold on to as a survival mechanism—to remember life-threatening events.
One of the fundamental principles of Ayurveda is to become free of unwanted old emotional behavioral patterns that were created during childhood and still haunt us as adults. While there are many Ayurvedic strategies to free yourself of these unwanted emotions, new research suggests that neuroplasticity, or our ability to change mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, is based in part on the free flow of information via the myelin sheaths that protect our nerves. These sheaths need an ample amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3s also support optimal function of the brain’s glymphatic system, which clears nearly three pounds of plaque and waste from the brain each year. Healthy glymphatic circulation is key for supporting mood and mental health. Studies suggest that omega-3 supplementation can deliver mild to moderate mood support.
See also How to Release Unwanted Emotions with Ayurveda
Omega-3s vs. Omega-6s
Omega-3 fatty acids come primarily from fish oils, while omega-6 fatty acids come primarily from seed oils. While consuming seeds is still extremely healthy, the vast majority of omega-6 vegetable oils are bleached, boiled, and deodorized to such an extent that they are rendered indigestible by the body and unappetizing to gut microbes that typically eat oils.
Research shows that we used to get omega-6 to omega-3 in a ratio of 1:1. Today that ratio is a dangerous 20:1. We need to reduce the intake of processed vegetable oils and increase the intake of healthy omega-3 fatty acids from fish, flax, or chia seeds.
See also Everything You Need to Know About Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Longevity
The Framingham Heart Study, which launched in 1948, is an ongoing, large-scale study on the residents of Framingham, Massachusetts. Over the past 70 years, the project has provided substantial insight into identifying the risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
In 2018, a report was published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology in which researchers evaluated the blood from 2,500 of the offspring of the original Framingham Heart Study participants.
Using the Omega-3 Index, which is the percentage of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in red blood cells, the researchers measured the omega-3 fatty acid content in each participant’s blood sample.
Researchers conducting the 2018 study found that participants who had the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA) also had significant reductions in all-cause mortality—meaning that the risk of death from any cause was dramatically reduced.
Other studies have found that the greater the omega-3 content in the blood, the lower the rate of telomere breakdown. Telomeres are the end-caps on chromosomes. They shrink with age and stress. Research shows that the shorter your telomeres are, the more exposed you are to cellular aging, degeneration, and disease.
Since Dr. Bill Harris created the Omega-3 Index 17 years ago, more than 200 hundred studies have used his index. One of those studies—a 2021 meta analysis of 17 different studies—looked at more than 42,000 people over 16 years. The group that had the highest omega-3 index had a 13 percent lower risk of dying from any cause than the group with the lowest amount of EPA and DHA in their blood.
Another study found that the group with the highest omega-3 index had a 34 percent lower risk of dying from any cause and a 39 percent lower risk of dying from a cardiovascular event. A 2021 study found that those with the highest omega-3 index lived 4.7 years longer than those in the group with a lower index.
Heart Health is About More than Cholesterol
Through massive scientific misunderstandings and misleading marketing messages, we have all been conditioned to believe that cholesterol levels are the only indicator of cardiovascular concerns.
But more and more studies are being published that challenge this thinking.
In the 2020 analysis of omega-3 fatty acid studies, researchers found that it was higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and not low cholesterol levels, that predicted heart health.
See also How to Balance Cholesterol, the Ayurvedic Way
Get 3 Times the Absorption from Your Fish Oil Supplement
Good fats, like the DHA and EPA found in fish oils, are delivered to your cells via lymphatic channels. They support cell integrity, skin health, and heart and brain function. They also deliver baseline energy into every cell of the body. Without these fats, we become depleted and exhausted.
If dietary fats or fish oil supplements are not fully broken down when the liver produces bile, only a small amount actually gets absorbed into the bloodstream and lymph.
Based on this understanding, LifeSpa found a fish oil manufacturer that has patented a process to pre-digest the fish oils into a monoglyceride form that does not require break down by the liver and gall bladder. They are delivered directly into the bloodstream and lymphatic vessels.
This means that LifeSpa’s Mini Omega 3x has 300 percent greater DHA and EPA absorption and stays active in the blood 300 percent longer compared to other fish oil supplements. With Mini Omega 3X, DHA and EPA aren’t lost through the digestive process.
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What if being a vegetarian?