In 2012 figures from the Office for National Statistics suggested that most people are living six years longer than current life expectancy projections.
This shows that most men will live to 85 while the majority of women will survive until 89 and it is likely to increase for children born today.
Whilst this in itself may appear to be good news, I think the most important criteria is to ensure that we live longer with a healthy body and mind.
As we age various parts of our bodies begin to shrink – reduced bone density is one of the most common signs of losing height – but did you know that our brains also reduce in volume? Although this is a normal part of the aging process, brain shrinkage may also be a sign of Alzheimer’s.
Omega 3 fatty acids
A recent study published in the American medical journal Neurology, suggests people with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids have larger brain volumes in old age which are the equivalent to preserving up to 2 years of brain health.
The study followed over 1,000 post-menopausal women who were given MRI scans to measure brain volumes. The women were followed up 8 years later and researchers found that the women who had higher levels of omega-3s also had larger total brain volumes.
Also the women with higher omega-3 levels had a larger volume in the hippocampus, an area of the brain that begins to shrink in Alzheimer’s patients before symptoms even appear.
James Pottala from the University of South Dakota who conducted the research said:
“These higher levels of fatty acids can be achieved through diet and the use of supplements, and the results suggest that the effect on brain volume is the equivalent of delaying the normal loss of brain cells that comes with aging by 1 to 2 years.”
A study published in December 2013 by the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, suggested that omega-3 supplements are able to cross the blood-brain barrier in Alzheimer’s patients, affecting markers of inflammation for the disease.
The American authors conclude that their study “adds to the growing literature suggesting that higher omega-3 Fatty Acid tissue levels, which can be achieved by dietary changes, may hold promise for delaying cognitive aging and/or dementia.”
Dietary sources of omega 3
Omega-3 fatty acids are fats found in oily fish as well as plant sources. Try to include the following foods to ensure you are getting adequate amounts of these essential fats into your diet:
Halibut, herring, mackerel, salmon (wild), sardines, trout and fresh tuna.
Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, watercress, parsley and mint
Pasture fed meat, organic milk and dairy and eggs
If you would like more information on nutrition and health please contact our nutritional therapist, Pippa Mitchell who can advise you on how to make sure you are getting the best from your diet. Call 01483 527 945 for more details.
Yvonne Freund Levi, Inger Vedin, Tommy Cederholm, Hans Basun, Gerd Faxén Irving, Maria Eriksdotter, Erik Hjorth, Marianne Schultzberg, Bengt Vessby, Lars-Olof Wahlund, Norman Salem, Jan Palmblad. Transfer of omega-3 fatty acids across the blood-brain barrier after dietary supplementation with a docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)-rich omega-3 fatty acid preparation in patients with Alzheimer’s disease: the OmegAD study. Journal of Internal Medicine, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/joim.12166