Fish And Brain HealQM

Is It True That Fish Is Brain Food?

Fish is rich in omega 3 fatty acids that have been shown to lower the risk of cognitive disorders such as impairment of learning, memory, perception, and problem-solving.

1- What Are Omega 3 Fatty Acids?

Lipids or fats are made from saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of fatty acids known as polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids are also divided into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), linolenic acid (ALA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is the principal constituent of the plasma membrane of neurons found in the brain and cerebral cortex. It is also found in the retina and skin.

Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) is essential for the synthesis of the vasodilator, anticoagulant, and inflammatory hormone, Prostaglandin (PG). It is also essential critical for the synthesis of the pro-coagulation and thrombosis factor, thromboxane, and the inflammation mediators, leukotrienes.

Linolenic Acid (ALA) is involved in the regulation of blood lipids and endothelial (Vessels) function. It has also significant anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic effects.

2- Which Types of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Are Found in Fish?

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) are found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, sardine, and fish oils,

Linolenic Acid (ALA) is found in fish but in flaxseed, chia, walnuts, hemp, and vegetable oils.

3- Omega 3 Benefits for the Brain

Omega 3 fatty acids are present in the membrane of brain cells (neurons) and are protecting factors of the nervous system [1]. These are some of the functions of omega 3 fatty acids in the brain:

Neurotransmission is the process of transmission of information between the brain and the other parts of the body.

This transmission is carried out by neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin, glutamate, GABA, along the neurons.

Neurotransmitters travel from one neuron to another through synapses; however, to do so they must be transported by membranous vesicles that are made essentially made of omega 3 fatty acids [2].

Neurogenesis is a process of making neurons and other types of brain cells that begins during embryonic life and that continue in certain parts of the adult brain such as the hippocampus and the subventricular zone of the cerebral cortex.

The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is involved in memory and the subventricular zone is implicated in olfaction (sensation of smell).

Omega 3 fatty acids are necessary for the production of new hippocampal neurons and olfactory neurons as they are essential for the formation of the membranes of the new neurons.

  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Membrane Receptor Function

Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to regulate the activity of the adenosine A2A and dopamine D2 receptors that are found on neurons, and which modulate the function of the neurotransmitters, glutamate, and dopamine [3].

  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Synaptic Plasticity

Neurotransmission is performed through the transfer of neurotransmitters from one neuron to another through synapses.

The changes in strength or weakness of the synapses are known as synaptic plasticity. These changes can regulate the number of neurotransmitter receptors that bind neurotransmitters, and therefore, control the excitation of neurons.

Omega 3 fatty acids are involved in changing the strength or efficacy of synaptic plasticity and inducing the growth of new synaptic connections [4].

  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Neuroinflammation

Neuroinflammation is an inflammation that happens within the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) following injury.

Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties through their involvement in the synthesis of pre-resolving mediators, such as resolvins, protectins, and maresins. These mediators are involved in the resolution of inflammation [5].

4- Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Neuropsychiatric Disorders

A study found that the blood levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are significantly lower in schizophrenia patients compared to healthy control individuals.

It also found that schizophrenia patients who consume more omega 3 fatty acids have an improvement in schizophrenia symptoms [6].

Mood disorders have been associated with abnormalities in the composition and concentration of omega 3 fatty acids.

Patients with major depression have significantly lower omega 3 fatty acids in the blood cells and the severity of the depression correlated with the concentration of 3 fatty acids [7] [8].

5- Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)

Several studies have shown a correlation between Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and the decrease in the levels of omega 3 fatty acids in the hippocampus and cortex [9][10].

However, further clinical trials are required to confirm the beneficial role of omega 3 fatty acids for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

6- Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Although the effect was modest, a study reported that supplementation with omega 3 fatty acids improved the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) [11].

7- Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Acute Neuronal Injury

Excess or chronic neuroinflammation can cause damage and death of nerve cells. Through their neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties, Omega 3 fatty acids can prevent the induction of acute neuronal injury that is can be caused by neuroinflammation [12].

8- Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury can result in sensory and motor disabilities and post-traumatic inflammation that limit the regeneration of neuronal axons.

An experimental study showed a significant increase in locomotor performance and survival neurons following the administration of Omega 3 fatty acids [13].


Fish is rich in omega 3 fatty acids and specifically in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Omega 3 fatty acids have many roles in brain function, cognition, the generation of new neurons in the hippocampus and the cerebral cortex, and in neuroinflammation.

Omega 3 fatty acids also have neuroprotective properties that can help with the treatment of mental health disorders such as schizophrenia and major depression, Alzheimer’s disease, brain injury, ADHD, neuronal injury, and protection against neuroinflammation.

Therefore, to the question “Is It True That Fish Is Brain Food?”, the answer is an absolute, yes, and I will always have fish as part of my diet.

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