NLM Director’s Comments Transcript Neurology.
Increased Brain Function & Omega-3s: 04/30/2012
The study found seniors with elevated levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood had higher scores on cognitive and memory tests compared to persons with low omega-3 fatty acid levels. The latter tests included visual memory, abstract reasoning, attention, and cognitive function.
The study also found older adults with higher omega-3 fatty acid levels in their blood had a comparatively larger brain volume. To put this another way, the study found adults with lower omega-3 fatty acid levels experienced increased brain shrinkage over time.
The study’s authors explain the brain tends to become smaller as adults age. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans of the study’s 1,575, post age-67 participants suggested overall, comparative brain volume changes were equivalent to two years of aging among adults with lower omega-3 levels, the study’s lead author, Zaldy Tan M.D., University of California-Los Angeles, told the Wall Street Journal.
The authors controlled for—and ruled out—some participant health and lifestyle factors, such as age, education, and body mass index, before suggesting differences in brain volume and cognitive function are associated with omega-3 fatty acid levels.
The study does not discuss participant dietary habits, or suggest how much fish (or other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids) persons ate to obtain higher levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids commonly are found in fish, such as herring, sardines, salmon, and halibut. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in other foods, such as eggs and flaxseed. Omega-3 fatty acid food supplements are sold over–the–counter in drug stores and supermarkets throughout the U.S. A check of current prices at two national drug store chains suggests a bottle of high potency omega-3 fish oil costs about $15, or about .34 cents a tablet.
The Neurology study was based on a subset of seniors without dementia who were selected from the larger Framingham Heart Study. The study’s 12 authors explained the research featured some pioneering methods that included MRIs to determine brain changes and assessing omega-3 fatty acid levels from participant blood samples (in three month intervals) rather than relying on dietary self-reports. The authors explain the study is the first to assess omega-3 acid levels within blood cells, which more precisely measures omega-3’s build up during a longer period of time.
The comprehensive Framingham Heart Study started in 1948 and assesses how health and lifestyle impact heart disease. The Framingham Heart Study is under the direction of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Support for the current research also came from the National Institute on Aging. An array of findings from the Framingham Heart Study can be found by typing ‘Framingham heart study’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine provides additional information about the association between omega-3 fatty acids and cognitive function in the ‘research’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s dementia health topic page.
MedlinePlus.gov’s dietary fats health topic page also provides research summaries that include omega-3 fatty acids within the ‘research’ section. Links to the latest pertinent journal research articles are available in the ‘journal articles’ section within MedlinePlus.gov’s dietary fats health topic page. Links to omega-3 and related clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the ‘clinical trials’ section.
From the dietary fats and dementia health topic pages, you can sign up to receive email updates with links to new information as it becomes available on MedlinePlus.
To find MedlinePlus.gov’s dietary fats health topic page, type ‘dietary fats’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page, then, click on ‘dietary fats (National Library of Medicine).’
To find MedlinePlus.gov’s dementia health topic page, please type ‘dementia’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page, that’s ‘D…E…M…E…N…T…I...A’ then, click on ‘dementia (National Library of Medicine).’
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