Monday, November 5, 2007

Algae for Your Brain

Yummy! That sounds about as good as eating liver and organ meats to me. And why would anyone want to eat algae anyway? It turns out that it’s algae that makes fish such a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, building blocks of the brain. Fish eat algae and bigger fish eat smaller fish and on it goes until there are abundant levels of these fatty acids in many kinds of fish. The gottcha is, however, that there is also a fair amount of contamination in many of the fish with high levels of omega-3s. We have all been sufficiently warned about mercury levels in swordfish and shark, for example.

So, an innovative U.S. company, The Martek Biosciences Corporation, has taken on the task of manufacturing algae! How’s that for an idea! Their senior scientist, J. Casey Lippmeier (definitely not pictured right), said in an interview on NPR this week that they were impressed by the studies a few years ago of how much improvement there was in brain development of children on formula with added DHA, one of the omega-3s. Previously, formula-fed babies always tested slightly lower in brain function and development than breast-fed babies. This finding motivated scientists to work on producing algae in laboratories as way to avoid the contamination worry of harvesting omega-3 fats from fish. Their success is admirable. They are now helping fortify foods of all kinds with the addition of their product.

I just love how creative we all can be. This is a story worth reading more about. You can go to for the whole story and for links to other research on omega-3 fatty acids and their positive impact on health. The good news is that taking omega-3 supplements seems to have similar effects. The omega-3 is metabolized the same way with supplements as with foods that contain them. Or so the early research seems to be saying. As always, you should talk with people you trust, including your doctor, before making any big dramatic changes to your diet or lifestyle that could impact your health.

I’m for anything that helps with brain fitness, as you know. We put together a brain fact this week that highlights just how helpful omega-3 fatty acids are on brain health. Be sure to also check out Brain Fitness, the software we write so much about and sell at Capabilities. The popularity of the program is growing daily. We are even working with a number of local organizations who are investigating how they can use the Brain Fitness program in the communities they oversee. Contact us if you would like more information about considering implementing the program at your retirement community, library, community center or other organization.

And let us know what you are doing to keep your brain healthy. Post your thoughts here.

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