Professor Barbara Meyer

Barbara is currently a Professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Wollongong. After studying Biochemistry at Monash University, Barbara Meyer undertook her PhD at the Baker Institute in Melbourne and graduated with her PhD from Monash University in 1993. Barbara’s first academic appointment was in the Department of Biomedical Science at the University of Wollongong approximately 26 years ago.

Barbara’s current research is in the field of lipid and fatty acid metabolism; notably the role of omega-3 fatty acids in health and disease including mental health and complicated pregnancies and has authored over 90 peer reviewed scientific manuscripts. She is on the Board of Directors for the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids. She has had numerous roles in the Nutrition Society of Australia (NSA), from setting up the inaugural NSA Wollongong group, to NSA Treasurer, to NSA President Elect, President and Immediate Past President. In 2016 she received the NSA Medal award which is awarded to “nutrition scientists with an outstanding record in the field of animal or human nutrition”.

Oils ain’t oils: How dietary intake of Omega-3 PUFA can improve cognition and behavioural self-regulation in both adults and young children.

It has been known for quite some time that adequate intake of omega-3 is associated with enhanced cardiovascular health and has other physical health benefits including joint health. Our diets have changed in that we are consuming too many omega-6 PUFA and not enough omega-3, and the omega-6 displaces omega-3 from our bodies. Emerging but substantial literature suggests that inadequate levels of omega-3, as measured in blood samples, is associated with a broad range of mental health difficulties and that supplementation with omega-3 can attenuate the symptoms of some of those conditions. Compared to international standards for adequate levels of omega-3, Australians intake is poor and this is in part associated with inadequate inclusion of fish and other rich sources of omega-3 in our diets, but also high intakes of omega-6. One area of particular concern is how this deficit in dietary intake of sources of omega-3 might affect cognitive processes, in particular, those associated with executive functioning and behavioural control.

In this presentation we will outline the biological plausibility of omega-3 in supporting healthy cognitive functioning and detail three studies investigating the impact of supplementation on behavioural self-regulation in both adults and young children. Preliminary data will be provided from each of the studies and we will discuss the implications for health and nutrition policies at a national level.

Learning Outcomes

  • How humans obtain omega 3 and the challenge of omega 6
  • The role of omega 3 in mental health and behaviour
  • The biological plausibility for the relationship between omega 3 and enhanced cognitive processes