This Just In: Omega-3s Help Enhance Creativity & Abstract Thinking
When it comes to utilizing nutritional strategies to bolster cognitive function, there's no doubt that certain nutrients can help enhance our memory and brain longevity.
But what about our ability to think outside the box or see the "bigger picture" when faced with a challenge or obstacle? Can that level of creative thinking be supported with a nutrient?
According to new research, the answer is yes. Specifically, scientists have found that increasing your omega-3 fatty acid intake can help with learning, memory, and abstract thinking.
In a recent cross-sectional Neurology study, researchers found that higher omega-3 levels were associated with larger hippocampal volumes and better abstract reasoning abilities in healthy middle-aged adults from the Framingham Heart Study cohorts.
How omega-3s promote cognitive health.
It's no secret that omega-3 fatty acids support brain health and longevity. Whether your mom served salmon the night before you had a big test or you've read the science supporting fish oil supplements' many, many cognitive benefits, omega-3s' important roles in promoting cerebral blood flow, enhancing working memory, and delivering general neuroprotection have been well documented.*
Increasing hippocampal volume and bolstering abstract reasoning, however? Well, these benefits are relatively new on the list of the fatty acids' achievements.
Memory & learning
A prominent (and complex) part of the temporal lobe, the hippocampus is vitally important for learning and memory. A smaller hippocampus is associated with long-term cognitive health challenges, while larger volume is associated with healthy memory, neuroplasticity, and more.
The Neurology study found that higher overall omega-3 index levels (i.e., a blood test and status biomarker of the amount of EPA and DHA in your red blood cell membranes) were associated with larger hippocampal volume. This is especially interesting considering the average age of participants in the study (46 years old) because hippocampal volume begins to decrease around middle age. Finding ways to maintain healthy volume (like increasing omega-3 intake) can help support cognitive function later in life.
The Neurology study also found that higher omega-3 index levels were associated with better abstract reasoning.
Abstract reasoning, aka abstract thinking, is the ability to understand and think about abstract concepts and ideas (e.g., humor, love, success, freedom, and wisdom). Since these concepts aren't tied to concrete people, places, or things, they require a level of creative thinking to fully grasp.
This kind of "out of the box" thinking is also related to fluid intelligence, or the ability to solve problems in a unique way. If you've ever been faced with a problem that couldn't be resolved with logic or concrete thinking, you realize how important the ability to think abstractly to come up with a creative solution truly is.
Whether you're trying to solve an abstract problem creatively or support your hippocampal health, upping your omega-3 intake is a beneficial way to promote cognitive function and longevity.
For an easy way to do just that, consider a premium omega-3 supplement that's rich in omega-3s, like mindbodygreen's omega-3 potency+. With 1.5 grams of EPA plus DHA, this sustainably sourced fish oil supplement delivers the healthy fats your brain needs to think abstractly and function optimally—today and down the road.*
Morgan Chamberlain is a supplement editor at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in magazine journalism and a minor in nutrition. Chamberlain believes in taking small steps to improve your well-being—whether that means eating more plant-based foods, checking in with a therapist weekly, or spending quality time with your closest friends. When she isn’t typing away furiously at her keyboard, you can find her cooking in the kitchen, hanging outside, or doing a vinyasa flow.