Omega-3 Supplements Do Not Slow Cognitive Decline

May 14th, 2022
Healthy Lifestyle

Omega-3 Supplements Do Not Slow Cognitive Decline In Older Persons

While some research suggests that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids can protect brain health, a large clinical trial by researchers at the National Institutes of Health found that omega-3 supplements did not slow cognitive decline in older persons. With 4,000 patients followed overs a five-year period, the study is one of the largest and longest of its kind. It was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Emily Chew, deputy clinical director at the National Eye Institute led the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) which established that high doses of certain antioxidants and minerals- called the AREDS formulation can help slow the progression to advanced age-related macular degeneration. A later study called AREDS2 tested the addition of omega-3 fatty acids to the AREDS formula and found that omega-3 fatty acids made no difference.

With AREDS2, Dr. Chew and her team evaluated patients with early or intermediate AMD who were 72 years old on an average and 58% were female. They were randomly assigned to placebo, omega-3, lutein/zeaxanthin or both. Participants were given cognitive function tests at various time intervals up to four years.

Omega-3 fatty acids are made by marine algae and concentrated in fish oils; they are responsible for the health benefits associated with regularly eating fish such as salmon, tuna and halibut. Other omega-3 fatty acids are found in plant foods such as flaxseed, walnuts, soy products and canola and soybean oils.

Omega-3 supplements are available over the counter and often labeled as supporting brain health. A large 2011 study found that omega-3 supplements did not improve the brain health of older patients with pre-existing heart disease.

Article Source
1. Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) Research Group. “Effect of omega-3 fatty acids, lutein/zeaxanthin or other nutrient supplementation on cognitive function: The AREDS2 randomized clinical trial. JAMA, published online August 25, 2015.
2. National Institutes of Health, USA.