Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that are frequently found in plant material, oily fishes and certain varieties of other meats. These essential fatty acids are vital for a healthy metabolism, and, if consumed regularly as part of a healthy diet, have been shown to reduce the risk for a number of illnesses—including cancer, cardiovascular disease and developmental disorders.

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Many diets are naturally insufficient in Omega-3s, so supplements are available to counteract the deficiencies, and promote the positive effects. Scientific studies have shown a correlation between Omega-3 fatty acids and a lowered risk for developing dementia, but the evidence is still debated.

How Omega-3s May Prevent Dementia

There are some conflicting studies in circulation, but some forms of dementia (most notably Alzheimer's disease) are thought to be somewhat preventable in individuals with a consistent consumption of sufficient levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. While Omega-3s are shown to benefit cognitive ability, their role is not yet demonstrated in preventing or reducing the effects of dementia.

Some theories suggest that EPA and DHA, components of Omega-3s, do have a reductive affect on the formation of amyloid compounds (the buildup that is thought to be a primary cause of Alzheimer's, and other degenerative dementias). Despite this clinical reduction, the direct correlation between Omega-3s' effects and the reduction of dementia cases is still under investigation.

The Latest Research

Many studies have concluded that there is a verifiable inverse relationship between the intake of Omega-3s as part of a daily diet, and the risk of developing dementia.

However, some of this evidence is inconclusive, and the effects of Omega-3s on reducing the symptoms and slowing the progression of the disease are debated. Further studies are required to solidify the assumptions that Omega-3 intake can prevent or delay the onset of dementia, though the evidence currently suggests it does correlate with a reduced risk.

Sources Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

In addition to commercially available Omega-3 fish oil supplements, Omega-3 fatty acids naturally occur in a variety of different foods. These include:

  • Oily fish, including salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, tuna and sardines
  • Eggs (which are sometimes fortified with extra Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids)
  • Flax seed
  • Beef that has been grass-fed

Other meats are sometimes available as fortified with Omega-3s. This is done through a carefully maintained diet that increases the natural levels of Omega-3s in the animal before slaughter.

Possible Side Effects

Taking no more than the recommended maximum of three grams of fish oil daily is recognized as safe, but there are a few minor side effects that can come with heavy doses:

  • A fishy taste remaining in the mouth
  • Upset stomach or nausea
  • Loose stools

Omega-3s have been shown to prevent amyloid formation to some degree, even though their direct role in preventing degenerative dementias has not been scientifically proven.

In any case, Omega-3s are an essential fatty acid for any diet, as long as they are consumed in reasonable amounts. By ensuring an adequate intake of Omega-3s daily, you might be reducing your risk for dementia—but you'll certainly be reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease and some kinds of cancer.