We'll start our journey into nootropics with something everybody is mostly familiar with: omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. There are many things involved in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and the contraindicating statements just confuse the people even more - we tried to boil it down to the basics that are easy to understand.
The most important thing that many people don't know, is the ratio between them. It's important because omega 3 and 6 "compete" for the same metabolic enzymes when our cells are producing Eicosanoids - a form of signal transmitters in the body.
You can check out the Wikipedia entry on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eicosanoid for full details but basically our bodies can't differentiate between the two omegas, and use whichever is at hand. But end products/results are very much different. The omega 6 eicosanoids are generally pro-inflammatory; omega 3 are much less so. The amounts and balance of these fats in a person's diet will affect the body's eicosanoid-controlled functions, with effects on cardiovascular disease, triglycerides, blood pressure, and arthritis.
Omega 3 basics and supplementation
If you are interested about the details, Wikipedia is again a great source with loads of links towards science experiments and findings: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omega_3, I'll just give you the juice here.
There are quite a few forms of omega 3 acids - but 3 basic nutritionally important forms
are: ALA (α-linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
Our bodies can't synthesize them on their own from scratch, but they can create longer chains (EPA and DHA) from shorter ALA, though efficiency is low - about 5% for men, and somewhat more for woman.
Sources of omega 3 include chicken meat and eggs, beef, lamb, milk and cheese - but only organically produced ones (grass fed and free range instead of grain fed) provide good ratio of omega 3 to omega 6. But even those, while much better, don't have an ideal 1:1 ratio.
Fish is the best source - especially the cold water oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies and sardines. Again organic being preferred to farmed one. Oils from these fish have a profile of around seven times as much n−3 as n−6. And as eating fresh organic fish every day is out of reach for the most of us - the next best thing is to take omega 3 supplement.
The praised Flaxseed oil, while being rich in omega 3 oils, is mostly containing short form ALA, which as we already covered doesn't convert that well to longer forms. So it not great, but doesn't hurt either.
The best thing that you can do to get enough omega 3 that's usable (EPA and DHA) is to get it from fish oil supplements. Recommended dose is 2 to 3 grams per day.
Benefits and risks of omega 3
What we are targeting from nootropics point is anti-depression, pro-focus and overall brain health. Omega 3 oils have been related to help with prevention and improvement with ADD/ADHD and overall brain health, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, immune system, depression, and general anti-inflammatory.
There were some expressed concerns about supplements possibly being contaminated with heavy metals - but the reality is different.
First thing is that heavy metals bind with proteins in the flesh of the fish rather than accumulate in the oil (hence another reason for supplementation rather than eating bunch of industry produced fish).
Second, filtration during fish oil production is excellent. And in 2006 an independent test of fish oils available on the US market found that all of the products passed safety standards for potential contaminants.
There is only one thing to watch out - "too much of a good thing" plays here as well. Taking more than 3 grams of fish oil each day may lead to adverse levels of blood thinning, and special care should be taken if you are already on some blood related drugs.
Thin blood is obviously bad if you get a cut or other injury and it can also lead to a specific type of stroke caused by too thin blood.
So sticking to less than 3 grams per day seems like a good idea. It's much better and healthier to lower your omega 6 consumption by eating a healthier diet.
Authors experienceSince I started omega 3 supplementation using fish oil I noticed improvements in mood and slightly in ability to focus. Another thing is that post hard workout muscle inflammation seems to last shorter, as well as that "regular" sinus infections are less common. I've been taking daily dose of ~10ml salmon oil which is ~2400mg of omega 3.
Share with us your experiences with omega 3 and specifically fish oil supplementation.