Brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is one of the most studied and abundant growth factors in the brain and it is strongly expressed in the limbic region of the brain, which controls mood and behavior and plays a role in memory. It is essential to optimize BDNF levels in those with cognitive, neurological, and psychiatric diseases. Previous research has shown decreased BDNF levels decreased in these conditions. BDNF promotes the survival, maintenance, and growth of neurons. It plays an vital role in plasticity which is fundamental in the process of memory formation and learning.

According to a recent meta-analysis published in Clinical Nutrition ESPEN, researchers investigated the effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels.

This meta-analysis included 11 studies with each study consisting of 22 to 110 individuals over 8 to 26 weeks with a dose range between 720 mg to 3750 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. This review demonstrated that omega 3 supplementation significantly increases BDNF levels compared to the control group. This effect is even more pronounced for supplementation over 10 weeks and doses less than 1500 mg per day. In addition, this effect is greater in individuals over the age of 50 years of age.

BDNF is thought to regulate a key transcription factor that is involved in neuroprotection, neuroinflammation, and cellular growth.

Previous research has described a link between serotonin and how omega-3 fatty acids have a such a significant effect on neurological disorders.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) increases serotonin release from presynaptic neurons by reducing inflammatory signaling molecules in the brain known as E2 series prostaglandins, which inhibit serotonin release and suggests how inflammation may negatively impact serotonin in the brain. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) also plays a role in the serotonin pathway. DHA also influences the action of several serotonin receptors by making them more accessible to serotonin by increasing cell membrane fluidity in postsynaptic neurons.

In general, lower omega-3 fatty acid levels have been seen in those with neurological disorders. EPA and DHA are essential components of cells membranes in the brain and play an important role in its function and structure. I have found that most patients will need to supplement with 2-3 grams per day of omega-3 fatty acids to optimize the omega-3 index. Other interventions that may be beneficial in increasing BDNF include coffee fruit concentrate (NeuroFactor™), curcumin, resveratrol, and acetyl-l-carnitine.

By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS

Source: Sohouli MH, Rohani P, et al. Changes in serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor following supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids: A systematic review and Meta-Regression analysis. Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2023 Aug;56:207-214.





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