People With Low DHA Have Smaller Brains

A new study in the journal Neurology found low levels of omega-3 fatty acids can age your brain faster as well as lower your memory and thinking abilities.

The study involved 1,575 people with an average age of 67, all of whom were healthy and free of dementia.

Researchers used several measures to test brain function, including an MRI brain scan, mental function tests, body mass, and of course omega-3 levels.

Turns out people with low levels of DHA, one of the two essential fatty acids in fish, also had smaller brains. These same unlucky participants scored lower on visual memory, problem solving, abstract thinking, and other mental tests.

That’s not all. The study showed low DHA levels increase your brain’s “age” by two years. So if you’re, say, 65, you theoretically have a brain of a 67 year old. Aging improves wine and cheese. For your brain, not so much.

On the opposite spectrum, people with the highest levels of DHA fared much better on these tests and dramatically reduced their risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Adequate DHA levels for brain health make sense when you consider your brain is about 60% fat. According to my friend Dr. Joe Mercola, DHA alone makes up about 15 – 20% of your brain’s cerebral cortex.

You’d have to live on another planet not to know how omega 3 fatty acids benefit everything from cardiovascular disease to diabetes. Inflammation, circulation, memory you name it, omega-3s can probably improve the condition, which is why I recommend them to nearly everyone.

So what’s the most effective way to get these crucial omega 3s? If you eat a lot of wild salmon and other non-farm raised fish (I’m talking every day or every other day), you’re probably getting adequate amounts.

For years, people consumed flaxseed and flaxseed oil to get omega 3s. However, scientists eventually discovered your body does a lousy job of converting the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in these plant sources to the EPA and DHA fatty acids in fish oil.

Now, don’t get me wrong. ALA provides anti-inflammatory and other benefits. I want you to eat plenty of ALA-rich foods, including walnuts, flaxseed, and omega-3 enriched organic eggs, to balance out the pro-inflammatory omega 6s so prevalent in our diets.

But despite what vegan websites might claim, humans evolved getting optimal amounts of EPA and DHA through fish and wild game, not plant sources. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger.

If you’re not a fish eater and you want to get the numerous benefits of omega 3s, you need to supplement. You can buy fish oil in softgels or liquid. But bulky softgels can be hard to swallow. And oils are, well, oily.

I have a delicious solution that even a finicky kid or squeamish partner will love. I know: you don’t often see the word “delicious” beside fish oil.

This fish oil tastes like lemon custard!

Barlean’s Lemon Flavored Omega Swirl tastes almost like lemon custard. No kidding. It’s the next best thing to eating dessert but far healthier.

You can toss a spoonful of this Swirl into a smoothie or enjoy it alone. It provides an amazing texture and tart flavor with absolutely no hint of fishiness.

You’re getting a high-quality fish oil with an impressive 730 mg of EPA/ DHA blend in each serving that’s naturally sweetened with xylitol. You can trust the Barleans name that you’re getting the freshest, highest-quality fish oil available.

So stock up on wild salmon and other fish at your local market to get the omega 3s that boost your mind and body. And if fish isn’t your cup of tea, Barlean’s Lemon Flavored Omega Swirl provides an excellent, delicious alternative to get these essential fatty acids.


  • Tan ZS, et al. Red blood cell omega-3 fatty acid levels and markers of accelerated brain aging. Neurology. 2012 Feb 28;78(9):658-64.