More Bad News for Omega-3 Supplements

Not long ago, we wrote about a study published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, showing omega-3 supplements’ lack of improvement on cognitive function. Recently, another study published in JAMA found similarly disappointing results regarding omega-3 fatty acids’ effect on cognitive function. Here’s what this new study adds to the story:

What Researchers Found
The researchers administered cognitive tests to 3,501 older subjects every two years over a five-year period. Some of the subjects regularly supplemented their diet with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 fatty acids, the main component of fish oil supplements), while others took a placebo. The tests showed no noticeable difference in the cognitive scores between the two groups — on tests for memory, processing speed and executive function.

Why It Matters
Cognitive function is an important factor when it comes to aging because — let’s face it — everyone wants their brain to be functioning at a high capacity in order to fully enjoy life. Additionally, higher cognitive function reduces the risk for neurodegenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. The burden of these diseases, as well as mild cognitive impairment, has rapidly grown in recent years and is predicted to increase further as the world’s population ages.

Expert Insight
So what kinds of lifestyle changes could actually help slow this decline? Studies have shown that increasing your education level and physical activity, as well as not smoking, can greatly reduce your risk for dementia and other forms of neurodegeneration. Even better, there are other fun interventions — like brain teasers and dancing — that have shown marked improvement in cognitive function in older adults.

(Feature photo by George Hodan, publicdomainpictures.net)

Nicolette Hoke

Nicolette Hoke is an intern with the Healthy Aging Project, and a student in the Integrative Physiology Department at the University of Colorado Boulder.