Sardines Weeks – Small Brain Test Improvement with Omega – 3s

One of the reasons why I started brain testing back in 2012 was to scrutinize Seth Roberts finding, that omega-3s fats improved his balance and brain speed. The main source for his omega-3s was flaxseed oil so early in 2014 I tried eating flaxseeds. There was a slight improvement of my times, but it was not clear whether it was caused by omega -3s or something else, as it lasted even after I stopped eating the not very tasteful seeds. Then I read Richard Sprague’s report from his fish oil experiment. He also used Seth’s brain reaction time test and found (statistically) significant improvement on the days he took the fish oil pills. So I decided to give it another try.



I didn’t want to eat fish oil pills because they are sensitive to mishandling (light, temperature, time) and oxidize quickly. So chose sardines as my omega-3s source. They are healthy, relatively safe (heavy metals content), easy to buy and cheap. I have problems eating enough fish anyhow and with omega-3 fats I would be getting high-quality fish protein as well.  And sardines are getting popular as keto pioneer’s Dominic D’Agostino’s favorite breakfast eaten in the mornings also by Tim Ferriss himself.

As I am a big guy, I didn’t want to undershoot the dose. So every day during the intervention time I ate two cans of Atlantic sardines in brine what equals to 180 grams of drained fish solids. Depending on the source you trust it should be equal to a daily dose of omega-3s anywhere from 1.8g through 3.0 g up to 4.0g. For me, occasional fish eater, it was a lot of fish to swallow. First I wanted to do a month, but then, tired of so much fish, I decided to do two two-weeks interventions. So the experiment had ABABA design. Almost every day, in the afternoon I took the test measuring reaction times (set of 32 correct answers=trials) two times one after another.


I was skeptical and subjectively didn’t notice any change. But the data suggest a small improvement. The graph shows the average time of every finished set. Red dots are test sets during the intervention (B) , blue during control weeks (A). The day immediately after last day of sardines eating is included in the intervention period, as the omega-3 effect is supposed to last for 24h after the last consumption.

The trend line is a 7 day (14 sets) moving average. The calculated mean of all set times during interventions is 354 milliseconds vs. 356 msec. average of tests during control days. You can see the effect also on the declining/rising trend lines during intervention/control weeks. I set an all-time personal best in the brain test during the second intervention double week (342msec.). Although small, the measured difference seems to be statistically significant (Welch’s unequal variances t-test P = 0.0328). Based on this experiment omega-3s in sardines seem to positively influence my brain function.

3 thoughts on “Sardines Weeks – Small Brain Test Improvement with Omega – 3s”

  1. Very interesting. Nice experiment; good idea to try with real fish, rather than pills.

    Did you also track sleep and other variables (e.g. exercise) during this time period? I think your two-week interventions should be enough to see an improvement (and you do), but it would be interesting to rule out other possible effects. If, for example, it turns out that you were sleeping *less* during the intervention weeks, that would hint that the effect was even stronger than the t-test shows.

    1. hi Richard, yes I do track other variables as well (sleep duration/quality, stress, exercise….) but didn’t notice any significant changes in them during the experiment. what might have influenced the brain speed was soft flue like symptoms at the end of the first treatment period. my children had a flu but I didn’t fully developed the sickness. this might have decreased the brain test average a little, so the effect of omega-3s would be a bit stronger.

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