Is Your Brain Getting Enough Omega 3?


Welcome to Better Brain Fitness, hosted by doctors Josh Turknett and Tommy Wood. In this podcast, we will explore the frontiers of how to keep our brain fit and healthy so that we can perform at our best and do the things we love for as long as possible. Let’s go. Welcome again to the Better Brain Fitness podcast. I’m joined today by my cohost, doctor tommy Wood hello, Tommy. Hello, Tommy will be fielding today’s question. Our question today comes from Amanda who is in the UK who asks if we choose to eat the foods instead of supplement for brain health, how much omega three fatty acids, B vitamins and choline do we need and what would that equate to in food? How do we know we’re getting enough from food? We don’t eat much oily fish, as my husband is not a fan, but he’s willing to incorporate it into our diets, especially if it’s maybe one hundred fifty gram portion per week.

01:03 : Thank you. Okay, Tommy so how do we know how much we need of those things omega Freeze, B vitamins, Choline and how can we tell if we’re getting enough if we’re trying to get a mainly from food, which is what we recommend, yeah. So I’m going to assume that, well, I’ll try and give answers that cover both but there’s a scenario where they eat an omnivorous diet. So they might include other animal products, but it’s just fish in particular, they don’t enjoy eating, which is certainly the case for some people or it may be that you know as like Bill Clinton famously eats a plantbased diet, but his doctor makes me one portion of salmon a week.

01:47 : You know, it may be that scenario as well that’s possible. So I think if we if we have a rough idea of how much say long chain Omega threes we need and again the there are two different ways to answer this question one is what’s a good recommended daily. You know there’s a recommended daily allowance like what sort of recommended at the governmental level. How that’s assessed is very different from nutrient to nutrient you know it also you know it differs from person to person telling you know a fifty you know person or a hundred pound person that they should eat exactly the same amount of a nutrient as a hundred kilo or two hundred twenty pound person right that’s we know that doesn’t doesn’t make sense.

02:34 : However that’s I think it’s a good place to start. So say for choline the recommended daily allowances around 300 milligrams and I think for most people in their brain function that’s probably enough. I think that would be plenty to recommend long term. So the problem is that the vast majority of the population are choline deficient. You need to eat something like four or five eggs per day to get that amount of choline. You know if you added a couple of portions, a couple of eggs, couple of portions of fish or meat, right you’re starting to get up there are some plants that have a reasonable amount of choline.

03:18 : Certain mushrooms like shiitake mushrooms, soybeans have some choline, but in reality you’re probably most people aren’t reaching the amount of choline that that’s even recommended however, if you have eggs or meat at most meals during the day, you’ll probably hit those targets in terms of Omega threes. I think that the evidence for sort of longterm brain health suggests somewhere around, you know, maybe a gram of DHA or two grams of DHA plus e p a per day.

03:54 : If you eat one 150 gram portion of say salmon once a week, that’s going to get you something like 2 and to three grams d h a and you don’t need to eat a certain amount every day. What happens is the DHA particularly if it comes in triglyceride form as it is in fish, it gets, you know any excess that you don’t need that day is stored in your adipose tissue and then it’s sort of trafficked out is sort of meted out as needed.

04:27 : There’s some nice studies that show that that’s what happens. So you know one 150 grand portion is probably just about enough I would guess but that’s sort of like on average, like on population average that’s probably fine because you’ll get some other little bits of Omega threes like you’ll make a little bit yourself from precursors like alpha alanic acid that you can get from nuts and things like that. Or set other seeds like chia seeds and then they’ll be a little bit in other foods like they’ll you know anything that has some fat, some eggs, you know some meat will have small amounts so you’ll probably get enough if you have like 1 concerted fish meal per week.

05:08 : I think the best way to know if you’re eating enough is to test and you can get an omega three index test you some of these things can be done at home they’re sort of like at home finger brick type testing that’s that seems to work pretty well for omega three status at least if you do an omega three index then you normally get it as a as a percentage and ideally you know sort of the level associated with the best health outcomes is sort of above 7 to 8 %.

05:41 : 3 % or lower is higher risk and then there’s sort of like an intermediate if you’re sort of like four five six you’re probably okay, but I would I would test and if you’re low then I would you’re trying to increase your intake and if it looks good based on your current intake then great, just you just keep doing that. Colleen is also related to other B vitamins in terms of how it regulates homocysteine and methylation. It’s important in the in that process. So one way to test for some of those things is to do a basic blood test so you can look at your homocysteine level and it’s not going to necessarily tell you exactly what you need more of, but things that if you have an elevated homocysteine, things that can bring it down include choline, but also B12 folate, B6 and riboflavin.

06:30 : Most of those things again seem to be particularly concentrated in animal foods, particularly organs. I didn’t mention organs as a source of choline, but liver is a great source of choline you know if you eat you know a few ounces of liver, that’s your daily choline intake. So that that’s a good option if that’s on the menu. But to check for a home assisting level, you can also measure things like B12 and folate that’s done very regularly in. Interestingly, if you’re in the UK you can get a blood test called holotranscabalamin which is a nice sort of functional available B12 test in the US they just do like a serum B12 which is less useful interestingly and they don’t have this activated B12 test.

07:16 : But you can also do a test for something called methane balonic acid which gives you an idea of it’s like a functional marker of B12 requirement and these things are relatively easy to get you can get most of them like from a direct to consumer or you know, even most doctors will probably do them because they’re fairly well appreciated tests homocysteine increasingly being appreciated. Maybe you’ll get a raised eyebrow, but you can usually you can definitely get it done if you if you pay for it yourself and it shouldn’t be too expensive.

07:46 : Hey there. So if you like this podcast, then I think you will enjoy the Brain Joe Connection newsletter. The Brain Joe Connection is a free newsletter sent out twice a month and is all about the science of how to keep our brain fit and healthy, along with products, books, tools and resources for improving brain health and function that we use and recommend to subscribe. You can go to Brain Joe Academy Forward slash Connection or click the link in the podcast description. All right, now back to the show. So that’s what I do. Those the general recommendations but if you’re uncertain or to say you’re eating more of like a plant based approach then you can certainly the question asked you can we do this without supplementation? I think yes if you’re eating fish once a week, you know you’re maybe you’re going to have to really focus on some plant based sources of things like choline so then soybeans or soy products and shiitake mushrooms and things like that I think are gonna get you some of the way and like I said you will make some of your own Omega threes from things like Ala which you’ll get in a bunch of different nuts and seeds.

09:11 : And then you know if you do want to supplement with something like choline then a plant based source of coline is lettuce in it can be sunflower or soy lesser thin that’s essentially mainly phosphatid or choline. But I think the best, the best way to navigate that is to do some basic testing and figure out where you are based on your current levels of intake and then you know change change from there if you have access to those tests, that’s great.

09:41 : So say I’m someone I’ve, I’m eating a serving of an oily fish once a week and I get my omega three index and it’s lower i think you said over 78 % was what you would like to see. Definitely over 3 % maybe ideally over 7 % yeah. And so i’m eating my sort of upper limit of what I want to take and that number is low would you then advocate supplementing in that situation, just target that number? Yeah yeah. And you know, there’s always some wiggle room around these numbers but if, I mean, if you’re low, you know, less than two or three percent, i definitely think there’s enough evidence to suggest that supplementing would provide some benefit you get, you get, you know, close to five, six, 7 %, yeah.

10:32 : And then is there a particular omega three supplement or kind that you would that you’d like? Again, it depends but I think Nordic naturals are sort of consistently considered one of the better fish oil supplements when I supplement and I don’t usually anymore just because i consume enough from food but there’s some Icelandic cod liver oils that I take because that’s sort of something that I’ve done historically my grandmother feeding me cod liver oil as a as a kid that’s just something that’s normal for me right.

11:14 : But Nordic natural is a good option then if you are more plant based then there was some algal long chain omega three supplements that you can try if you if you don’t want to source it from fish great. All right that’s helpful so yeah, not too challenging there to get your amounts, but if you, if you’re concerned testing periodically is something that fortunately is fairly easy to do these days and all of those things are important for reasons that we’ve mentioned in prior episode so thank you Amanda for that question any anything else to add Tommy or no, I don’t think so if there’s more followup questions from that, I imagine we’ll get more and more of those as we as we go so, yeah, if I didn’t cover everything in exactly the way you hoped, just let us know and we’ll do some shorter episodes where we sort of try and clear up some of this stuff with multiple questions and we’ll definitely try and cover it there yeah, exactly.

12:15 : Please feel free to ask us any followup questions and we can knock them out quick if need be and so it’s even if it’s on little things. And to do that to ask any question of for us, you can go to All right well, that’s it for this episode thank you, Tommy. Thank you.