One of the biggest selling supplements worldwide is fish oil containing Omega-3 fatty acids, because of a body of research indicating it is very beneficial for cardiovascular health. More recently, much research has focused on the role Omega-3 plays in cognitive function, as some Omega-3 fatty acids such as docosahexaenic acid (DHA) are key components of neural networks. A recently published study by the Oregon Health and Science University’s National Primate Research Center appears to provide additional evidence that Omega 3 is good for the brain.

A group of rhesus monkeys were fed a diet either high in DHA, or deficient in this fatty acid over their entire lifespans. Brain activity and organization was then measured with resting-state functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging. The high DHA group showed activity and connections within areas of the brain typically associated with attention, and had cortical modular organization resembling the healthy human brain. The monkeys that received low levels of dietary DHA demonstrated decreased functional connectivity, and impairment of distributed cortical networks. The researchers said their findings indicate that Omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA play an important role in developing and maintaining large-scale brain systems, including those essential for normal cognitive functioning.

Australian researchers recently provided evidence that another fatty acid found in fish oil, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) appeared to be somewhat more effective than DHA in enhancing neurocognitive function, although some industry scientists have said that more study is needed to properly interpret the results of the Australian study.



Grayson DS, Kroenke CD, Fair DA, Neuringer M, Dietary omega-3 fatty acids modulate large-scale organization in the rhesus macaque brain, Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 34, No. 6, p 2065 - 2074, 2014

Bauer I, Hughes M, Rowsell R, Pipingas A, Crewther s, Crewther D, Cockerell R, Omega 3 supplementation improves cognition and modifies brain activation in young adults. Human Psychopahrmacology Clinical and Experimental, doi: 10.1002/hup.237


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