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Increased intakes of omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent the decline of cognitive functions

November 20, 2013

A new study from Finland reports that high blood concentrations of omega-3 fatty acid may lower the risk of small brain infarcts, which are linked to cognitive decline in the elderly.

In the observational study, the blood concentration of omega 3 fatty acids were measured in 3,660 partici- pants aged 65+ and the potential development of “silent” brain infarcts (no apparent symptoms) over five years was detected by brain scans (through magnetic resonance imaging) (1). After adjusting several fac- tors, the risk of having silent infarcts was found to be 40% lower for participants with the highest omega-3 fatty acid serum levels – in particular docosahexaenoic acid – when compared to participants with the lowest blood concentrations. Higher levels were also associated with a better grade of white matter (consisting of nerve fibers) and a lower risk of worsening these brain regions.

The researchers concluded that these findings indicated beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids in the pre- vention of small lesions in the brain that can cause dementia, stroke and loss of thinking skills in the long term. Additional prospective observational and clinical studies are needed to evaluate the role of omega‐3 fatty acids in maintaining brain health and preventing disease later in life.

References

  1. Virtanen J. K. et al. Circulating Omega‐3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and subclinical brain abnormalities on MRI in older adults: The Cardiovascular Health Study. Journal of the American Heart Association. Published online October 2013.