Can a new ‘do it at home’ pinprick blood test for omega-3 predict your cognitive ability, dementia risk, brain size and intelligence?
Foodforthebrain.org, a charity dedicated to researching cognitive function and helping people look after their brain and reduce their risk of dementia and other brain-related health challenges, has today (31st Oct.) launched a new ‘do it at home’ pinprick blood test for omega-3.
Multiple studies, including a new study, by psychologists at the Linda Loma University in California and published in the journal Brain Sciences[i], have found that the higher a person’s omega-3 index was in their blood, the more white matter there was in their brain, and the better they performed on cognitive tests that predict less risk for dementia.
With omega-3 such an important brain-health indicator, FoodfortheBrain.org has launched an easy, do it yourself, home pin prick test, so your omega-3 levels can be accurately determined.
Research also shows that the test can predict brain size and intelligence.
The study in California not only found omega-3 was a clear predictor of cognitive function and dementia risk (the higher the omega-3, the lower the risk), it also found that in older people in good health, levels of omega-3 predicted both their brain volume and their cognitive abilities on tests of memory and speed of thinking (the higher the level the bigger their brain volume and the faster their thinking).
“This confirms previous growing evidence that a person’s omega-3 index, which is a composite score of the two main brain-friendly omega-3 fats found in seafood, called EPA is short for Eicosapentaenoic Acid. It is an essential omega-3 fatty acid found in fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring, and is often… and DHA is short for Docosahexaenoic Acid. It is an essential omega-3 fatty acid found in fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring, and is often…, predicts both the risk for depression[ii] and dementia[iii], and poorer reading ability, lower IQ, worse memory, difficulty sleeping, aggression and emotional instability in children – hallmarks of ADHD [iv].” says Patrick Holford, founder of FoodfortheBrain.org.
The Omega-3 index, which should be above 8%, also predicts risk for heart disease[v] and developmental problems in babies from measures taken in women both before and during pregnancy. “Pregnant women with a higher omega-3 index have a much lower risk of having a baby with developmental problems, according to research at Imperial College London from the Institute of Brain Chemistry at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital campus.” adds Holford. “It is wise for a woman considering pregnancy to check their omega-3 index and ensure it is above 8%.”
The home test kit, available from FoodfortheBrain.org, also includes a free Cognitive Function Test and a questionnaire to complete about your diet and lifestyle that then identifies the key changes that lower risk of dementia.
“We have tested over 400,000 people and our goal is now to track people’s blood levels of omega-3 with cognitive function to work out exactly what the optimal intake of omega-3 for brain health actually is.” explains Holford.
While there is a type of omega-3 There are many different types of fats; polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, hydrogenated, saturated and trans fat. The body requires good fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) in order to… (called linolenic acid) in green leafy vegetables, as well as walnuts, chia and flax seeds, its conversion into EPA and DHA is poor. The ability to convert plant-based omega-3 into EPA, which is associated with better mood, and DHA which is the main brain-building omega-3 fat linked to lower risk of age-related memory decline and dementia, varies from person to person. The charity hope to find out whether other factors such as age, sex, alcohol consumption and dietary habits, other than seafood intake, make a difference to the ability to make the brain-friendly types of omega-3 measured in this test.
The intake of marine foods has continued to decline over the past hundred years and countries with the lowest intake have the most risk for depression[vi], dementia[vii] and suicide[viii]. Even the rate of homicide is linked to a country’s omega-3 intake according to World Health Organisation data[ix].
“Less than 5 per cent of children achieve the basic government guidelines for eating fish and omega-3[x] however we really don’t know if even these guidelines are optimal for mental heath.” Says Holford. “The more people who are willing to take this inexpensive test and complete a short questionnaire about their dietary habits, plus take a 10 minute online Cognitive Function Test, the more effectively we can discover what an optimal intake of omega-3 for brain health and the prevention of dementia later in life is. We are calling for members of the public to become citizen scientists in this way.” The test, which costs £49.95, helps to support this research.
To check your omega-3 status go to www.foodforthebrain.org/tests
[i] Loong, S.; Barnes, S.; Gatto, N.M.; Chowdhury, S.; Lee, G.J. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids – they cannot be made within the body so must be obtained from the diet. EPA and…, Cognition, and Brain Volume in Older Adults. Brain Sci.2023,13,1278. https://doi.org/ 10.3390/brainsci13091278
[ii] Yonezawa K, Kusumoto Y, Kanchi N, Kinoshita H, Kanegae S, Yamaguchi N, Ozawa H. Recent trends in mental illness and omega-3 fatty acids. J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2020 Nov;127(11):1491-1499. doi: 10.1007/s00702-020-02212-z. Epub 2020 May 25. PMID: 32451632.
[iii] Wei BZ, Li L, Dong CW, Tan CC; Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative; Xu W. The Relationship of Omega-3 Fatty Acids with Dementia and Cognitive Decline: Evidence from Prospective Cohort Studies of Supplementation, Dietary Intake, and Blood Markers. Am J Clin Nutr. 2023 Jun;117(6):1096-1109. doi: 10.1016/j.ajcnut.2023.04.001. Epub 2023 Apr 5. PMID: 37028557; PMCID: PMC10447496.
[iv] Montgomery P, Burton JR, Sewell RP, Spreckelsen TF, Richardson AJ. Low blood long chain omega-3 fatty acids in UK children are associated with poor cognitive performance and behavior: a cross-sectional analysis from the DOLAB study. PLoS One. 2013 Jun 24;8(6):e66697. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0066697. Erratum in: PLoS One. 2013;8(9).doi:10.1371/annotation/26c6b13f-b83a-4a3f-978a-c09d8ccf1ae2. PMID: 23826114; PMCID: PMC3691187; see also Raine A, Ang RP, Choy O, Hibbeln JR, Ho RM, Lim CG, Lim-Ashworth NSJ, Ling S, Liu JCJ, Ooi YP, Tan YR, Fung DSS. Omega-3 (ω-3) and social skills interventions for reactive aggression and childhood externalizing behavior problems: a randomized, stratified, double-blind, placebo-controlled, factorial trial. Psychol Med. 2019 Jan;49(2):335-344. Doi 10.1007/s11920-018-0894-y. PMID: 29623453.
; see also Liu, J., Cui, Y., Li, L. et al. The mediating role of sleep in the fish consumption – cognitive functioning relationship: a cohort study. Sci Rep 7, 17961 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-17520-w
[v] 1 Elagizi A, Lavie CJ, O’Keefe E, Marshall K, O’Keefe JH, Milani RV. An Update on Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Health. Nutrients. 2021 Jan 12;13(1):204. doi: 10.3390/nu13010204. PMID: 33445534; PMCID: PMC7827286.
[vii] Yonezawa K, Kusumoto Y, Kanchi N, Kinoshita H, Kanegae S, Yamaguchi N, Ozawa H. Recent trends in mental illness and omega-3 fatty acids. J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2020 Nov;127(11):1491-1499. doi: 10.1007/s00702-020-02212-z. Epub 2020 May 25. PMID: 32451632.
[viii] Hibbeln JR. Depression, suicide and deficiencies of omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are fats that must be taken in through the diet as they cannot be made by the body. Both omega-3 and… in modern diets. World Rev Nutr Diet. 2009;99:17-30. doi: 10.1159/000192992. Epub 2009 Jan 9. PMID: 19136836.
[ix] Hibbeln JR. From homicide to happiness–a commentary on omega-3 fatty acids in human society. Cleave Award Lecture. Nutr Health. 2007;19(1-2):9-19. doi: 10.1177/026010600701900204. PMID: 18309762.