A new study nixes the popular belief that Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish such as salmon or nuts nourishes brain cells.
The study found no evidence of any important benefits for memory or mental decline of increased omega-3 fatty acid consumption among older people with normal cognitive health.
Lead author of the study, Mr Ammann, from the University of Iowa, said, “There has been a lot of interest in omega-3s as a way to prevent or delay cognitive decline, but unfortunately our study did not find a protective effect in older women. However, we do not recommend that people change their diet based on these results.”
Details of the study
In order to establish whether the diet’s omega-3 fatty acids helped to stave off mental decline, the researchers conducted a study. They tracked more than 2,150 women between 65 and 80 for an average of six years. The subjects were part of the Women’s Health Initiative study, a clinical trial for hormone therapy use.
To gauge their levels of omega-3 fatty acids, the women underwent blood tests before the study began. This was done to glean their intake of fatty acids over the last two months.
Outcome of the study
The women received annual tests to assess their thinking and memory skills (verbal memory, verbal knowledge, verbal fluency, visual memory, spatial ability, fine motor speed and working memory).
The analysis found no difference in thinking and memory skills between volunteers with high and low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood at the onset of the study. In addition, there was no variation on how fast their thinking and memory skills declined over the study period. However, subjects with high levels of omega-3s in their blood exhibited slightly better fine-motor speed and verbal fluency.
Given that the study does not does not prove or disprove a cause-and-effect relationship, experts feel there is need for further research to substantiate the findings.
Eric Ammann stated, “Our study was observational and should not be viewed as a definitive answer on the relationship between omega-3s and cognitive function. In making health-related decisions about diet and supplements, we would advise people to consider the total body of evidence and to consult with their health care providers.”
The findings are published in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.