Omega-3 fatty acids and brain health

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association looked at the relationship between consumption of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and some physical measures of the brain that have been linked to “brain health” and “cognitive health.” This research was a bit different from many other studies of omega-3 fatty acids and potential health benefits, because most other studies have looked for relationships between dietary intake of these compounds (found especially in deep water fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, and mackerel) and major health outcomes, such as cardiovascular disease or depression. The JAHA article, on the other hand, narrowed the focus by examining measurable small-scale physical changes in the brain over a period as long as five years.

The results: people with higher omega-3 fatty acid levels showed a significantly lower number of the small-scale physical brain changes that may be associated with brain dysfunction or cognitive decline.
The study authors concluded that, among the older men and women who were the study’s subjects, higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids, “and in particular DHA, were associated with specific findings consistent with better brain health.”

Our comment: a fascinating study, because it adds another level of evidence contributing to the already widely accepted view that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for your brain, and indeed may provide important help in maintaining brain function as you age.

See the NYBC catalog for a selection of fatty acids, and note especially the Nordic Naturals Pro Omega choices, which are excellent quality fish oil supplements, containing the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids studied in the JAHA article:


Of special interest is the Jarrow supplement Max DHA, which provides an enhanced dose of the omega-3 fatty acid often associated with brain health:

MAX DHA (Jarrow)


Virtanen JK, Siscovick DS, Lemaitre RN, Longstreth WT, Spiegelman D, Rimm EB, King IB, & Mozaffarian D (2013). Circulating omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and subclinical brain abnormalities on MRI in older adults: the Cardiovascular Health Study. Journal of the American Heart Association, 2 (5) PMID: 24113325


HIV and Depression: the ACRIA study on HIV and aging, and some recommendations from NYBC

We’ve spoken recently about the study of HIV and aging produced by ACRIA, a non-profit, community-based AIDS medical research and treatment education organization.

A main finding of the 2006 study is the prevalence of depression among older adults with HIV. In its survey of about 1000 older HIV+ adults, ACRIA researchers found that they experienced depression at a rate almost 13 times as higher than the general population. And for people with HIV, the consequences of depression are associated with many physical issues, far beyond just “feeling down”:

“By suppressing the immune system, depression may render people more vulnerable to infectious diseases. Stress and depression have harmful effects on cellular immunity, including those aspects of the immune system affected by HIV. Body cell mass depletion is associated with significant increases in fatigue, global distress and depressive symptomatology, and reduced life satisfaction. Elevated symptoms of depression are associated with a faster progression to AIDS and a higher risk of mortality. Depressive symptoms, especially in the presence of severe stress, are related to decreases in CD4 cell count and declines in several lymphocytes.”

These study findings and other related research motivated NYBC to assemble up-to-date information on dietary supplements and depression. See, for an overview, this information sheet:

Printable version of the info sheet, including a chart for quick comparison of these supplements as used to address depression

More information on the individual supplements is also available on the NYBC website, at, as well as on this Blog, under “Depression.”

Acetyl-l-carnitine: anti-aging applications and dosing recommendations

Acetyl-l-carnitine, which is available through the NYBC purchasing co-op at the lowest price we’ve seen, is one of the key components of the NYBC MAC Pack, and may be especially useful in counteracting peripheral neuropathy.

Furthermore, it’s also one of the most studied dietary supplements to counter the effects of aging; taking 1,500 mg a day (a commonly suggested dose) of this supplement may improve cognitive function and mood. As we’ve written elsewhere on this blog, the B vitamins and the botanical gingko biloba also have good evidence to support their use to address the effects of aging. Finally, don’t forget that recent research has pointed to daily physical exercise–such as walking–as one of the most important things you can do to counter age-related cognitive decline.

Acetyl-l-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid in combination show an anti-aging effect in animal models

The Oregon State University/Linus Pauling Institute website is highlighting a number of recent studies, especially from 2005-2006, which have examined the potential of acetyl-l-carnitine or L-carnitine, together with alpha lipoic acid, to counter the effects of aging in laboratory rats. Like the Linus Pauling Institute reviewer, we are looking forward to human clinical trials in the next few years to further define useful dosages and health benefits.

NOTE: a great deal of previous research on acetylcarnitine, L-carnitine, and alpha lipoic acid is reviewed on the NYBC website.

…two studies found that supplementing aged rats with either ALCAR [acetyl-l-carnitine] or alpha-lipoic acid, a mitochondrial cofactor and antioxidant, improved mitochondrial energy metabolism, decreased oxidative stress, and improved memory. Interestingly, co-supplementation of ALCAR and alpha-lipoic acid resulted in even greater improvements than either compound administered alone. Likewise, several studies have reported that supplementing rats with both L-carnitine and alpha-lipoic acid blunts the age-related increases in reactive oxygen species (ROS), lipid peroxidation, protein carbonylation, and DNA strand breaks in a variety of tissues (heart, skeletal muscle, brain). Improvements in mitochondrial enzyme and respiratory chain activities were also observed. While these findings are very exciting, it is important to realize that these studies used relatively high doses (100 to 300 mg/kg body weight/day) of the compounds and only for a short time (one month). It is not yet known whether taking relatively high doses of these two naturally occurring substances will benefit rats in the long-term or will have similar effects in humans. Clinical trials in humans are planned, but it will be several years before the results are available.