YES to Omega-3s, but NO to Supplements

We recently wrote about omega-3 supplements, one of the most popular supplements among adults. Contrary to popular belief, these supplements have not been shown to increase cognitive function in adults. Omega-3 supplements don’t improve memory or problem solving, nor do they benefit processing speed and executive function. However, new research out of Chicago suggests that although omega-3 supplements may not provide much benefit, the omega-3s naturally found in fish may decrease the risk for Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases.

What Researchers Found
Researchers studied 544 participants over 9 years and performed brain autopsies on a little over half of them. Each participant was given a food frequency questionnaire, indicating how often each person consumed various types of food. Researchers found that people who consumed seafood one or more times a week had an 18% decrease in risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Some people fear that the mercury found in fish can be harmful to a person’s health; however, at moderate fish intake levels, researchers found no evidence of mercury-related health issues in this study.

Expert Insight
Although multiple studies have shown that omega-3 supplements themselves do not show too much promise as far as mental health is concerned, increased intake of omega-3s from diets high in fatty fish and other seafood, such as the Mediterranean and Inuit diets, could improve cognitive function and lessen risk for neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. If you’re looking for ways to combat these diseases for the future, eating more seafood throughout the week could prove to be useful.

According to recent meta-analyses (studies that analyze lots of other studies), in addition to helping with Alzheimer’s, seafood consumption may reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, as well as for stroke and possibly certain cancers and arthritis.

(Feature photo courtesy of

Matthew Poulsen

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