You may have heard that omega-3 fatty acids are good for you. They are a prime component of the nervous system, and cannot be made by the body–they must be consumed. But just how important are dietary omega-3 fatty acids for brain development and function?
A new study found that rhesus macaque monkeys fed an omega-3 rich diet from birth had well-organized and highly connected brains, with networks remarkably similar to those found in healthy humans. The brains of monkeys raised on a diet low in these fats, on the other hand, had impaired connections, a disorganized structure and couldn’t function normally, according to the study, published Feb. 5 in The Journal of Neuroscience.
“The data shows the benefits in how the monkeys’ brains organize over their lifetime if in the setting of a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids,” said Damien Fair, study co-author and researcher at Oregon Health & Science University, in a statement. “The data also shows in detail how similar the networks in a monkey brain are to networks in a human brain, but only in the context of a diet rich in omega-3-fatty acids.”
The study provides more evidence that omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for “developing and/or maintaining distributed, large-scale brain systems, including those essential for normal cognitive function,” the authors write. All the more reason to eat fish high in omega-3 fatty acids but low in mercury.