Following on from my previous blogs about healthy fats, there’s a final part to the series – the often overlooked algal (or algae) oil, which I mentioned in my previous blog about healthy fats. Since this month I’m writing about brain health, I’ll focus mostly on the brain benefits of this valuable oil. As you read on, you’ll discover why I have decided to make a very special blend of plant oils, which includes algal oil, an important part of my life from now on.
Algal oil is extracted directly from algae. It contains DHA (docosohexaenoic acid for those who like long words), which makes up 97% of the omega-3 fats in the brain. Studies have shown that algal oil is just as effective as the fatty acids found in cold-water fish. A 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association indicated that algal oil capsules and cooked salmon appear to be bioequivalent – i.e. they have the same effect in the body. A 2014 scientific review published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition found that algal oil is an effective alternative source of DHA, which leads to significant increases in DHA levels in red blood cells and plasma (the liquid part of the blood).
So, when we take it, it has measurable benefits. What else can it do?
Omega-3 foods are important for cognitive development and function. The brain is made mostly of fat, and it functions especially well when there are high levels of DHA in the body. DHA is also required for the development of the brain in infants and maintenance of normal brain function in adults. The inclusion of good levels of DHA in the diet improves learning ability, whilst deficiency causes a reduced learning ability. Oils with high omega 3 content also appear to reverse anxiety and depression in mammals, according to a study in the European Journal of Neuroscience. Dr Axe is suggesting that we should give it to our kids from an early age so that they won’t develop anxiety or depression later in life. What a great idea! Try this one – it’s the one I use.
Studies indicate that higher intakes of omega-3 oils significantly reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease as well as vascular dementia; oils like algal oil also improve quality of life and memory in those affected by dementia. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation improves cognitive function and reduces brain cell destruction.
Since plant-derived oils do not have the contamination issues that fish oils do (such as traces of PCB, mercury and organophosphates), they are considered to be a lot safer, and, from an ecological perspective, are totally sustainable.
Other oils and brain/circulatory function
Pomegranate seed oil
Punicic acid in pomegranate seed oil reduces the build-up of atherosclerotic plaque in the blood vessels, promoting heart and circulatory health. If blood vessels are narrowed anywhere in the body, less oxygen and fewer nutrients will be delivered and that body part will suffer. Anything that helps blood flow will be of benefit for vascular dementia.
The antioxidants in pomegranate seed oil have been shown to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels.
Sea buckthorn oil
The oil of this bright berry reduces cognitive decline and lowers cholesterol levels naturally. It also boosts microcirculation – flow in the smaller blood vessels.
Tomato seed oil
Tomato seed oil is rich in compounds that can naturally lower blood pressure. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a known contributor to vascular dementia, since it causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the brain.
The supplement I am now using contains all these oils, and therefore a fantastic range of omega 3, 5, 6, 7 and 9. Invest in your brain health today. Buy it here.
(Change the globe icon for your country of residence – this site automatically defaults to the UK. It’s available internationally).