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February 2019 (Vol. 3 Issue 12)

The one type of fish oil that helps with brain health
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

The one type of fish oil that helps with brain health image

If you're taking fish oil supplements for your brain health—such as recovering from a stroke, treating depression or protecting against dementia—make sure it's the LPC (lysophospholipid) form.

It's the only type of omega 3 fatty acid that can cross the blood-brain barrier and increase levels of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) in the brain.

Even 250 mg of LPC-EPA can increase levels of the fatty acid many times, say researchers from the University of Illinois. In experiments on mice, it raised the levels a hundred-fold.

If you're not taking the LPC form, you'd have to take high doses of EPA—around 50 millilitres, or a small cupful—every day for it to raise levels in the brain. Even then, it comes up against a 'transporter' at the blood-brain barrier that determines what is allowed through.

LPC-EPA also raised levels of DHA, the other fatty acid found in the brain. Stores of brain DHA are naturally higher, but can still be depleted, as can levels of EPA.

Although researchers haven't worked out the mechanism, they know that DHA helps maintain good memory and protects against cognition problems linked to Alzheimer's, while EPA can help treat and prevent depression.


References

(Source: Journal of Lipid Research, 2018; jlr.M090464)

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