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Mol Nutr Food Res. 2010 Apr;54(4):447-56. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.200900201.

Dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for optimizing neuronal structure and function.

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Department of Psychology, Regis College, Weston, MA 02390, USA.


Direct actions of omega-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 omega-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 omega-3 fatty acids, is tentatively supported by developmental and epidemiological evidence that dietary deficiency of omega-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 omega-3 fatty acids as adaptive neuromodulators capable of efficacy as dietary supplements and as potential prophylactic nutraceuticals for neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders.

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