It’s a security system more effective than any deadbolt or alarm, and it’s meant to protect something pretty valuable — your brain!
It wasn’t until the 1960s that scientists even knew what the blood-brain barrier (BBB) looked like. It’s basically a network of blood vessels meant to guard your brain from bacteria and other toxic substances. And it does that all while allowing entry only to the very specific hormones and nutrients your brain needs to function.
When that special security system malfunctions, however, the consequences can be devastating. Researchers believe it can result in a whole host of diseases, including ALS, MS, epilepsy and even Alzheimer’s.
That’s why a new study, which discovered a compound that plays a “critical role” in “preserving the integrity” of your BBB is very exciting news.
Even better, it’s not a drug or some little-known herb that can only be found high in the Himalayas, but rather something you can easily enjoy every day!
Researchers at Harvard Medical School have just published a study dealing with one of the most complex parts of the body — the brain. And more specifically, how the BBB stays closed to block intruders.
They believe their research may be the first “molecular explanation” of the precise way the BBB works.
And a big part of that explanation is the finding that omega-3 fatty acids — those “essential” fats you get from certain fish, nuts and even some veggies — is a vital player.
To keep the barrier from becoming “leaky,” the team investigated the complex process by which lipids containing the omega-3 fatty acid DHA is moved into cell membranes.
It all boils down to the fact that your mom was right on target when she said fish was brain food!
Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard some very good news come out about omega-3s.
Last year, we told you how those with type 2 diabetes can cut their risk of a sight-stealing complication — diabetic retinopathy — in half simply with two weekly servings of fish.
And of course we know that there’s a long list of health benefits to consuming the two main omega-3s, EPA and DHA, especially where your heart is concerned. But recently I told you about a study that found those fatty acids can benefit you even more if you’re at high risk for heart disease.
Then, there’s the agonizing join pain and stiffness of RA — and yes, omega-3s can help with that, too! That study, out of the University of Florida, went so far as to say that if you consume more omega-3 early on, you may “block (RA) progression” to “active inflammation.”
Now, it might seem easy enough to make sure you’re getting good amounts of omega-3s in your diet, especially if you’re a fish lover.
But unfortunately, modern-day farming practices — especially farmed fish — have managed to slash the amounts of naturally occurring omega-3 in foods by as much as 40 percent over the last hundred years.
Large-scale agriculture has actually managed to make our food less nutritious!
So here’s what you need to do to make sure you’re getting enough of this essential brain food:
- Take a high-quality fish-oil supplement (with both EPA and DHA) daily. The arthritis researchers recommended one to three grams a day, while the American Heart Association (that right, the AHA!) said that one gram (1,000 milligrams) is sufficient, even for those with congestive heart failure.
- Eat plenty of salmon, which is an excellent way to up your intake of omega-3s. Just be sure it’s wild-caught and not the farmed variety.
- Include cold pressed flaxseed oil, chia seeds, walnuts and even spinach in your diet as well.
All of which will help ensure you of that proverbial “ounce of prevention,” that omega-3s are more and more appearing to look like.
“Unlocking the barrier: Surprising role of omega-3 fatty acids in keeping the blood-brain barrier closed” Harvard Medical School, May 5, 2017, ScienceDaily, sciencedaily.com