Brain health: Why teenagers should eat fish, soybean and walnuts
Published : 21 Jun 2017, 17:13
When it comes to following a healthy diet, doctors and nutritionists always emphasise on the importance of including omega-3 fatty acids, with food sources such as fish, nuts, soybean, etc.
They are known as 'good fats', which are required in the body to carry out various vital mechanisms.
They have an effect on the heart, skin, cholesterol levels and even mental health.
According to a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, a diet lacking omega-3 fatty acids during teenage years may increase anxiety and worsen performance in memory tasks in adulthood.
A healthy diet is not a lifestyle habit that should be adopted only by adults. Even children should learn about the importance of eating healthy and follow it accordingly. One must remember that what we eat now plays a crucial role to our health as we grow older.
The study draws attention to the fact that adequate nutrition in adolescence is important for the refinement of adult brain and behaviour. Since junk food (high-calorie, low-quality products) has become a common feature in our diets today rather than more expensive healthy foods, teenagers often opt for those foods that lack key nutrients without even realising it.
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) cannot be produced by the human body and must be obtained from foods such as fish and vegetables. It is essential for good brain health. The structure and function of the brain continues to change throughout adolescence, at the same time teenagers' food choices change too.
For the study, researcher Oliver Manzoni with his colleagues fed mice a balanced diet until early adolescence.
Mice fed with the poor diet during adolescence had reduced levels of n-3 PUFA in the medial prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens in adulthood compared to control mice.
The low-quality diet impaired the brain's ability to fine-tune connections between neurons in these regions.
Omega-3 fats fall under the category of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and the three main types include DHA, EPA and ALA. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can be obtained directly from maternal milk (breast milk), fish or algae oil.
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA or also called icosapentaenoic acid) can be obtained by eating oily fish or fish oil, e.g. cod liver, herring, mackerel, salmon, menhaden and sardine, and various types of edible seaweed and phytoplankton.
Alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA), on the other hand, is found only in plant-based sources such as chia seeds, flaxseed, nuts (especially walnuts) and many common vegetable oils.
In simple words, Omega 3 fats play a crucial role in the growth and proper functioning of the human brain.
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