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Fight off the effects of junk food on the brain with omega-3s

Category: General Health

Individuals who use cholesterol testing kits and discover that their levels are less than ideal should look for ways to replace the saturated fats in their diets with healthy fats. For example, omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in many foods and fish oil supplements, have been shown to potentially help people lower their cholesterol levels. Recently, researchers from the University of Liverpool's Institute of Aging and Chronic Disease found that these fats may have another benefit - they could help protect the brain.

The scientists discovered that omega-3s may be able to minimize the negative impact that junk food can have on the brain, giving people yet another reason to consider adding these fats to their diets.

Bad for the brain
The researchers examined a collection of 185 scientific papers, which showed that fish oils may play a role in preventing the refined fat and sugar that people consume from affecting the brain's ability to control the body's food intake.

"Body weight is influenced by many factors, and some of the most important of these are the nutrients we consume. Excessive intake of certain macronutrients, the refined sugars and saturated fats found in junk food, can lead to weight gain, disrupt metabolism and even affect mental processing," said researcher Lucy Pickavance, Ph.D. "These changes can be seen in the brain's structure, including its ability to generate new nerve cells, potentially linking obesity to neurodegenerative diseases. Research, however, has suggested that omega-3 fish oils can reverse or even prevent these effects."

According to the scientists, the research papers showed that, when people consume high-fat diets, hormones that are secreted from the body after eating don't act the way they should. These hormones normally stimulate the growth of neurons and protect them, but, following a high-fat meal, fats called triglycerides prevent them from entering the brain and increase the circulation of certain inflammatory molecules.

However, omega-3 fatty acids seem to disrupt these molecules and suppress triglycerides, allowing these hormones to function normally. These findings suggest that people who are trying to move away from their high-fat diets should try to change the type of fats they eat. This can easily be accomplished by making a few simple changes to everyday meals.

Eating better fats
Self magazine recommends that people who are trying to be healthy and incorporate omega-3 fatty acids to their diet should eat like they are tourists in Greece. This means following a Mediterranean diet, which consists mostly of fish, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and olive oil. Olive oil and fish like salmon and anchovies are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. This diet also suggests that people consume red wine in moderation if they choose to consume alcohol, since this beverage contains antioxidants.

Furthermore, when people get a salad at lunch, they should use a dressing that is oil-based, rather than one that is made from mayonnaise or eggs. This will cut back on saturated fat and give individuals a healthy dose of omega-3s​ with the meal.

People can also take fish oil supplements on a daily basis, but they should still watch the type of fats they regularly eat. It's a good idea to read food labels to make sure that they do not contain large amounts of saturated or trans fats, which have been shown to negatively impact bad cholesterol levels and potentially contribute to heart disease.

Along with consuming more omega-3s, the Mayo Clinic recommends that people eat oatmeal, walnuts, almonds and more fruits and vegetables if they want to keep their cholesterol levels under control.

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