Cognitive Decline in Seniors Not Slowed by Omega-3 Fish Oil in Short Term
But researchers say longer term effects of omega-3 on cognitive decline and dementia need to be explored; urge seniors
continue eating fish regularly
10, 2012 - Older people who take omega-3 fish oil supplements are probably not reducing their chances of losing cognitive function, according
to a new Cochrane systematic review. Based on data from studies lasting up to 3.5 years, the researchers concluded that the supplements
offered no benefits for cognitive health over placebo capsules or margarines, but that longer term effects are worth investigating.
Omega-3 fatty acids are fats responsible for many important jobs in the body. People get these fats through their daily
diets and the three major omega-3 fats are: alpha linolenic acid (ALA) from sources such as nuts and seeds and eicosapentoic acid (EPA) and
docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from sources including oily fish such as salmon and mackerel.
A number of
studies have hinted that omega-3 fatty acids, and DHA in particular, may be involved in keeping nerve cells in the brain healthy into old age.
There is, however, limited evidence for the role of these fats in preventing cognitive decline and dementia, according to this study.
researchers, led by Emma Sydenham at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), London, UK, gathered evidence from three high
quality trials comparing the effects of omega-3 fatty acids taken in capsules or margarine spread to those of sunflower oil, olive oil or
total of 3,536 people over the age of 60 took part in the trials, which lasted between six and 40 months. None of the participants had any
signs of poor cognitive health or dementia at the start of the trials.
The researchers found no benefit of taking the omega-3 capsules or spread over placebo capsules or spread. Participants
given omega-3 did not score better in standard mental state examinations or in memory and verbal fluency tests than those given placebo.
"From these studies, there doesn't appear to be any benefit for cognitive health for older people of taking omega-3
supplements," said Alan Dangour, a nutritionist at LSHTM and co-author of the report.
"However, these were relatively short-term studies, so we saw very little deterioration in cognitive function in either
the intervention groups or the control groups. It may take much longer to see any effect of these supplements."
The researchers conclude that the longer term effects of omega-3 fatty acids on cognitive decline and dementia need to be
explored in further studies, particularly in people with low intakes of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.
In the meantime, they stress other potential health benefits.
"Fish is an important part of a healthy diet and we would still support the recommendation to eat two portions a week,
including one portion of oily fish," said Dangour.
Cochrane Reviews are systematic reviews
of primary research in human health care and health policy, and are internationally recognised as the highest standard in
evidence-based health care. They investigate the
effects of interventions for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. They also assess the accuracy of a diagnostic test for a given
condition in a specific patient group and setting. They are published online in
The Cochrane Library.
Links to More Archived Stories on Omega-3, Fish Oil & Better Health
UK researchers find omega-3 fatty acids slow down osteoarthritis, at least in guinea pigs; I think it worked for me!
By Tucker Sutherland, editor, SeniorJournal.com
Oct. 17, 2011 – As an active
– well very active – tennis player for many years, when I turned 70 I was worried my playing days might end due to my aching knees. I never
took the court without wearing the latest in knee protection devices. Then, shortly after I increased my daily regimen of fish oil pills, the
knee pain disappeared. I was convinced my joints were now better “oiled.” New research says there may be something to this.
Related Archive Stories
A number of studies have now linked Omega-3 with reducing the risk of
AMD - major cause of blindness in senior citizens
New study supports earlier finding that eating fish helps prevent Alzheimer’s
July 22, 2003
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