Doctors generally believe that the best way to treat mood, thought, and memory disorders is with pharmaceutical medicines that directly influence levels of brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and acetylcholine. Although drugs have very important clinical uses, they are only part of the solution. A comprehensive approach to treating cognitive disorders should include foods and supplements that benefit the overall health of brain cells. These include omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseed and fish.
One way to influence brain health through diet is to consume the right fats and oils. About 60 percent of the brain consists of lipids (fats) which make up the lining, or cell membrane, of every brain cell. The types of fats present in the brain influence its structure and function. How well your mind works depends, in the long run, on what you eat.
Combating Eye Disease with Flaxseed
Another study has found that omega-3 fatty acids, and by extension, flaxseed, can reduce the risk of macular degeneration, which is an eye disease that destroys vision by damaging nerve cells in the eye. The results of a Harvard study, published in August 2001 in the Archives of Ophthalmology, showed that people with a high intake of omega-6 (vegetable oils) were more likely to develop macular degeneration, while those with a combination of lower omega-6 intake and high omega-3 intake were less likely to have the disease.
Flaxseed has recently gained attention in the area of cardiovascular disease primarily because it is the richest known source of both alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and the phytoestrogen, lignans, as well as being a good source of soluble fiber. Human studies have shown that flaxseed can modestly reduce serum total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations, reduce postprandial glucose absorption, decrease some markers of inflammation, and raise serum levels of the omega-3 fatty acids, ALA and eicosapentaenoic acid.
The flax plant, an ancient crop, yields the fiber from which linen is woven, as well as seeds and oil. The oil, also called linseed oil, has many industrial uses, it is an important ingredient in paints, varnishes, and linoleum, for example. Flaxseed oil also comes in an edible form, sold mostly at health-food stores. Like olive, canola, and most other plant oils, it is highly unsaturated and heart-healthy.