People with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) often have a deficiency in omega-3s and phospholipids. Unfortunately, omega-3 phospholipids can be found in only a few natural sources. The most studied source is cow brain. However, that research came to a crashing halt when, in 1986, mad cow disease broke out in the UK. Now it is no longer a good idea to eat brain or spinal-cord tissue.
As you might imagine, it wasn’t considered a big culinary loss when poached brain was removed from our menus. Mothers always admonish their children to “eat your vegetables,” but seldom to “eat your brains!”
The second most nutritious phospholipid omega-3 source is even less appealing: eye balls. The third is even bloodier: liver. The fourth is eggs, especially DHA eggs. Unfortunately, and incorrectly, eggs received bad press when they were said to increase cholesterol levels, and people reduced their egg consumption. Eggs are also a great source of choline, so you can see how we became deficient in choline, too (choline is important for attention and memory).
Krill oil to the rescue
In 2005, an alternative omega-3 phospholipid source was introduced as a supplement: krill oil, which contains significant quantities of omega-3 bonded phospholipids.
There are a bunch of reasons why I prefer krill oil vs fish oil for omega-3 supplementation and brain health. The main one is that, as we’ve said, krill oil is a phospholipid. Phospholipids are the main component of the plasma membrane (barrier) found around every brain cell. Our brain phospholipids have mostly bonded omega-3 DHA, the very same omega-3 lipid that can be found in krill oil.
DHA is an electrically charged fat molecule that plays a major role in brain function, and is an important part of the 60 percent of the fats that make up our brains. DHA helps in the transmission of electrical impulses in the brain when is talking to itself and other parts of our body. Think about the phrase, “You look familiar,” and the amazing computing power that is needed to connect vision processing with memory. This is what DHA (and choline) help to do. DHA also plays a major role in mood, behavior and our ability to learn.
The kind of fat in your brain cells influences the number and kind of neurotransmitters and receptors. The receptor is like a key, and the fats are like a keyhole in the cell membrane. Certain keys fit poorly, and some keys don’t fit at all. DHA makes a good fit.
One neurotransmitter in krill oil is of particular interest: acetyl-choline. Choline is the precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, of which phosphatidylcholine is a part, and the main phospholipid in krill oil is phosphatidylcholine. In the old days we used to eat livers and brains to get our choline. Today that’s no longer a delicacy, and our population is low in choline intake. Because choline is particularly important for brain development related to memory and attention, we need a supplement like krill oil, and we need to eat DHA eggs.
Research has shown that children with ADD have very low levels of DHA and choline in their brain, far lower than those who do not have the condition.1 This has led researchers to surmise that DHA/choline and ADD have a strong connection. Latest clinical research shows that DHA supplementation in phospholipid form, such as in krill oil, improves ADD symptoms, and thus strengthens the hypothesis that ADD is linked to DHA deficiency.
One more point: DHA and choline are also anti-inflammatory, and inflammation is what is believed to be at the base many diseases, especially those of the brain such as Alzheimer’s.
So here’s to taking your krill oil instead of eating your brains!