HomeHealthcareOmega 3, polyphenols and other brain food. Scientific studies

Omega 3, polyphenols and other brain food. Scientific studies

An experimental scientific study published on 22.7.20 on British Medical Journal demonstrates the favorable impact of dietary supplementation with Omega 3 e polyphenols on cognitive and learning performance. Food for the mind, in a short scientific review.

Brain functions and diet quality

Neuroscience cellular and molecular allow to evaluate the energy required for intrinsic and continuous brain functions (Raichle, 2015). Which show asurprising level of organization'and absorb about 20% of the energy value (kcal) taken from the diet, for the functionality of an organ - the brain - which expresses 2% of body mass. (1)

Each neuron it is constantly rebuilt, moreover, starting from its constituent proteins. Nutrition and the elements consumed in the diet can therefore actually affect the functioning of the brain. Offering the 'building blocks' to create and maintain the brain connections essential for cognitive and learning skills. The variations and shortcomings are also capable of producing effects even in the short term. (2)

Omega-3, polyphenols and cognitive functions

A systematic review Roberts' randomized controlled trial et al. (2020) was conducted on 1059 children aged between 15 months and 7 years, in ten villages in Guinea-Bissau. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of different forms of dietary supplementation in strengthening their cognitive abilities and the general health of their brains, over the course of 23 weeks. (3)

A supplement food high in Omega 3 fatty acids and vegetable polyphenols - as well as a wide variety of micronutrients and a high protein content - has been compared to a fortified mixed food (fortified blended food) commonly used in nutritional support programs and a control meal (traditional rice-based breakfast).

The administration of the 'super integrator' showed significant advantages on operational memory (workingmemory), an essential function that predicts long-term academic achievement. As well as on hemoglobin concentration, growth, body composition and cerebral blood flow index.

So little would be enough to favorably affect life and it development of vulnerable children in low-income countries. If only, beyond the sports bar propaganda 'let's help them at their home', Western governments devoted to international aid a minimum of those resources that UN agencies (UNICEF, FAO, WHO, WFP, IFAD) they urge loudly.

Omega-3, vitamins and minerals

Different substances have shown a potential favorable impact on brain activity and health, but only some of them have been tested effectively in human clinical trials. We focus on those that have shown the most promising results so far.

Omega-3. Omega3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, in addition to having a important role for the immune system, can be useful both to improve memory and to reduce the risk of onset of chronic degenerative diseases (eg Alzheimer's) and attention disorders. Their promising effects on brain health have led to clinical studies to verify the bioavailability and health effects of higher dosages (4,5).

Vitamin B-12. B-12 is an essential vitamin for brain development. Particular attention should be paid to its intake in the recommended daily amount, as seen, in vegetarian and vegan diets. Its deficiency, in the prenatal and childhood stages, can negatively affect the development of cognitive activities and memory. (6)

Magnesium. In turn, magnesium plays an important role in maintaining proper brain function - with particular emphasis on memory and learning - and health in general. Its integration is also useful to help reduce diseases such as migraines. (7)

Amino acids

Tryptophan. It is an essential amino acid, precursor of serotonin. The latter deficiency is associated with cognitive, memory and language problems. Supplementing tryptophan helps increase memory and attention. In addition to having an important role in the interaction between the brain and gut (o second brain) and the resulting functions. (8)

Creatine. Amino acid often used by sportsmen to increase theirs PERFORMANCE, creatine appears to have positive effects on cognitive abilities, particularly on memory and intelligence in healthy subjects. Vegetarians and vegans have shown greater benefits, also due to the relative deficiency often associated with their diets. (9)

L-Carnitine. Naturally present in brain tissues, it has the role of transporting fatty acids to the mitochondria for energy. And it is also able to perform a neuroprotective function, above all thanks to its ability to reduce oxidative stress, with an increase in memory and cognitive abilities. (10)

Ginseng and gingko biloba

Ginseng (Panax Ginseng). The extracts of this plant are effective in mitigating and slowing down the neurodegenerative effects of Alzheimer's. Its effectiveness is better in water extractions and subsequent concentration, compared to those by decoction. (11)

Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). An extract of the leaves of this plant has shown, in preclinical studies, positive effects on cognitive functions and on improving memory. (12)

gingko. It is one of the oldest tree species on the planet. Its extracts are used for the recovery of cognitive abilities, lost following neurodegenerative diseases. (13)

Polyphenols and melatonin

Hop (Humulus lupulus). Xanthumol, a polyphenol contained in hops, has multiple positive health effects. Preclinical studies indicate its potential contribution to improving cognitive abilities. (14)

Resveratrol. The polyphenol contained mainly in red berried grapes seems to have potential in reducing the onset and progression of Alzheimer's. (15)

melatonin. Supplementing this hormone, naturally produced by the brain, can improve sleep and help slow the loss of cognition in Alzheimer's. (16)

Fig 1. Evolution in extraction methods, yield and efficacy of active compounds in ginseng (Kim et al., 2018)



Fig 2. Imbalance of protective factors (including resveratrol) and risk factors in the onset of Alzheimer's (Sawda et al., 2017)

Dario Dongo and Andrea Adelmo Della Penna


(1) Marcus E. Raichle (2015). The restless brain: how intrinsic activity organizes brain function. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 370: 20140172, http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2014.0172
(2) Meeusen et al. (2018). Nutritional supplements and the brain. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 28: 200-211, https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.2017-0314
(3) Roberts et al. (2020). Effects of food supplementation on cognitive function, cerebral blood flow, and nutritional status in young children at risk of undernutrition: randomized controlled trial. BMJ 370: m2397, https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2397
(4) Boss et al. (2016). Effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on human brain morphology and function: what is the evidence? European Neuropsychopharmacology 26: 546-561, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.euroneuro.2015.12.031
(5) Arellanes et al. (2020). Brain delivery of supplemental docosaxexaenoic acid (DHA): A randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. EBioMedicine 102883, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2020.102883
(6) Venkatramanan et al. (2016). Vitamin B-12 and cognition in children. Adv. Nutr. 7: 879-88, doi: 10.3945 / an.115.012021
(7) De Baaij et al. (2015) Magnesium in man: implications for health and disease. Physiol. Rev. 95: 1-46, doi: 10.1152 / physrev.00012.2014
(8) Jenkins et al. (2016). Influence of tryptophan and serotonin on mood and cognition with a possible role of the gut-brain axis. Nutrients 8: 56, doi: 10.3390 / nu8010056
(9) Avgerinos et al. (2018). Effects of creatine supplementation on cognitive function of healthy individuals: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Exp. Gerontol. 108: 166-173, doi: 10.1016 / j.exger.2018.04.013
(10) Ferreira et al. (2017). L-Carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine roles and neuroprotection in developing brain. Neurochem. Res. 42(6):1661-1675, doi:10.1007/s11064-017-2288-7
(11) Kim et al. (2018) Panax ginseng as an adjuvant treatment for Alzheimer's disease. J. Ginseng Res. 42: 401-411, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jgr.2017.12.008
(12) Yamauchi et al. (2019). Memory enhancement by oral administration of extract of Eleutherococcus senticosus leaves and active compounds transferred into the brain. Nutrients 11: 1142, doi: 10.3390 / nu11051142
(13) Tan et al. (2015). Efficacy and adverse effects of Gingko biloba for cognitive impairment and dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Alzheimers Dis. 43 (2): 589-603, doi: 10.3233 / JAD-140837
(14) Zamzov et al. (2014). Xanthohumol improved cognitive flexibility in young mice. Behav. Brain Res. 275: 1-10, doi: 10.1016 / j.bbr.2014.08.045
(15) Sawada et al. (2017). Resveratrol for Alzheimer's disease. Ann. NY Acad. Sci. 1403 (1): 142-149, doi: 10.1111 / nyas.13431
(16) Lin et al. (2013) Melatonin in Alzheimer's disease. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 14: 14575-14593, doi: 10.3390 / ijms140714575

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

Andrea Adelmo Della Penna
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Graduated in Food Technologies and Biotechnologies, qualified food technologist, he follows the research and development area. With particular regard to European research projects (in Horizon 2020, PRIMA) where the FARE division of WIISE Srl, a benefit company, participates.

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