Biomedical Fast Takes

Omega-3s Add More Gray Volume to Your Brain

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pennsylvania were interested to test whether omega-3 fatty acid intake in humans varies with individual differences in gray matter volume, an in vivo, systems-level index of neuronal integrity.1

In animals, dendritic arborization—healthy dendrites assume a tree-like extended branch growth structure—and levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) are positively associated with intake of the omega-3 fatty acids. In the study, 55 healthy adults completed two 24-hour dietary recall interviews. Based on their responses, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids intake was categorized, by least to most, into four groups. Also, the amount of regional gray matter volumes in three area of the brain—the anterior cingulate cortex, the amygdala, and the hippocampus—were calculated using high-resolution structural magnetic resonance imagery (MRI).

Analyses revealed positive correlations between reported dietary omega-3 intake and gray matter volume in all three areas of the brain, adjusted for total gray matter volume. The higher the intake of omega-3 fatty acids, the greater the gray matter volume in these areas, but not in any other regions examined.

The investigators concluded that higher reported consumption of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids is associated with greater gray matter volume in the corticolimbic circuitry of the brain supporting emotional arousal and regulation. This finding should lead to other studies with the expectation that the pursuit should reveal more about the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on memory, mood, and affect regulation.


  1. Conklin SM, Gianaros PJ, Brown SM, Yao JK, Hariri AR, Manuck SB, Muldoon MF. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acid intake is associated positively with corticolimbic gray matter volume in healthy adults. Neurosci Lett 2007 Jun 29;421(3):209-12.

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