WORKPLACE / MAR. 10, 2014
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How Fatty Acids Make You More Productive

I recently posted an article titled "Eat and Drink Your Way to Productivity", in which I gave a list of food and drinks that will help you to be more productive. In it, I mentioned salmon and nuts, highlighting the fatty acids contained in these foods as "brain fuel".

But how do fatty acids help your brain? How can you boost your productivity by eating more fat?

The Power of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

There are lots of different types of fatty acids, but the ones that really boost your brain function are the Omega-3 fatty acids. The reason that they are so effective for your productivity is due to their ability to increase brain volume.

What does this mean?

Essentially, your brain is made up of millions of little cells, each of which are capable of storing energy and information. The more cells your brain has, the more information it can store. Omega-3 fatty acids don't create more cells, but it simply expands the cells already present - thereby increasing the amount of information that they can store.

The Women's Health Initiative Memory Study tracked women for 8 years, examining their diet to see which consumed more of these fatty acids. An MRI scan was taken of their brains, and the women that consumed more Omega-3s had a brain volume about 0.7% larger than the women that ate less. That may not sound like a lot, but considering the myriad tasks that your brain carries out every day, a 0.7% increase in brain volume can make a huge difference!

The women with the 0.7% increase in brain size had a hippocampus with a 2.7% greater volume than their counterparts. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is in charge of your memory, so a greater volume means a greater ability to store and recall memories.

(Note:  The hippocampus is the first part of the brain to decline in cases of Alzheimer's and dementia - even before the other symptoms begin to set in. An increase in hippocampus volume can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's.)

CBS News also published the findings of a report stating that Omega-3 fatty acids help your brain to age better. When you're working 60-hour weeks, you can bet that your brain is going to get tired and old quickly. By eating salmon, nuts, flax seeds, and all of the other foods loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, you can keep your brain from aging.

The same study found that those with higher levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DPA) - one of the two Omega-3 fatty acids - scored better on tests evaluating abstract thinking, visual memory, and the processing of information than their counterparts with lower levels of DPA. Low levels of DPA and EHA - the other Omega-3 fatty acid - tend to have more brain function and memory problems.

What does this mean for you? It means, if you want to be a productive, high-functioning professional, you need your brain to keep working well. You need to recall millions of details every day, and your brain needs its fuel in order to keep up with your work. Feeding it the Omega-3 fatty acids it needs is the key to being productive! 

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