We know that fat is important for the brain, and more specifically omega 3 fat. Active ingredients of omega 3 fats are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), but which one of these two ingredients are the most important for memory?
The reviewed research investigated just that. The study was a double blind crossover design where EPA and DHA were given to the participants, but with a 30 day wash out period in between the two supplementation periods (Bauer I, et al. 2014). Functional magnetic resonance imaging scans were used during
memory tests both before, and after, each 30 day supplementation period.
Both the EPA and DHA showed an increase in activation of a certain area of the brain, and the EPA reduced the reaction time of a specific test. The DHA, however, did not show any change in behavior performance. The researchers concluded that after EPA supplementation the participants’ brains worked less hard and achieved better cognitive performance, indicating that DHA supplementation is less effective than EPA supplementation in enhancing neurocognitive function.
Certain supplements containing only DHA have become popular because the belief has been that DHA is the most important one for the brain. That belief, however, does not seem to be accurate.
I believe we are better off taking a supplement that includes both EPA and DHA, since there are benefits to both.
Click here to read more about the benefits of EPA and DHA.
Bauer I, Hughes M, Rowsell R, Cockerell R, Pipingas A, Crewther S, Crewther D. Omega-3 supplementation improves cognition and modifies brain activation in young adults. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2014 Mar;29(2):133-44.