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Keywords:

  • ω-3;
  • Development;
  • Dietary self-selection;
  • Healthy adult;
  • Neurological disorder

Abstract

Direct actions of ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) on neuronal composition, neurochemical signaling and cognitive function constitute a multidisciplinary rationale for classification of dietary lipids as “brain foods.” The validity of this conclusion rests upon accumulated mechanistic evidence that ω-3 fatty acids actually regulate neurotransmission in the normal nervous system, principally by modulating membrane biophysical properties and presynaptic vesicular release of classical amino acid and amine neurotransmitters. The functional correlate of this hypothesis, that certain information processing and affective coping responses of the central nervous system are facilitated by bioavailability of ω-3 fatty acids, is tentatively supported by developmental and epidemiological evidence that dietary deficiency of ω-3 fatty acids results in diminished synaptic plasticity and impaired learning, memory and emotional coping performance later in life. The present review critically examines available evidence for the promotion in modern society of ω-3 fatty acids as adaptive neuromodulators capable of efficacy as dietary supplements and as potential prophylactic nutraceuticals for neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders.