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Omega-3 fatty acid may improve mental function

March 3, 2010

Increased intakes of the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenonic acid may improve cognitive functions in middle age people, according to a new study.

In the study, the omega-3 fatty acid serum levels and cognitive functions of 280 volunteers between 35 and 54 years of age were measured (1). The results showed that higher levels of docosahexaenonic acid (DHA), but not alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) were related to better performance on tests of nonverbal reasoning and mental flexibility, working memory, and vocabulary.

The researchers commented that these findings suggest that DHA is related to brain health throughout the lifespan and may have implications for clinical trials of neuropsychiatric disorders. However, the findings from this observational study cannot establish that any association between the omega-3 fatty acids on cognitive performance is causal. Additionally, randomized controlled trials in both healthy and clinical samples are warranted.

Existing evidence links greater dietary intake of fish and omega-3 fatty acids to better early brain development and lowered risk of cognitive disorders in late life. The potential brain boosting benefits of omega-3 have been reported by numerous studies but the mechanisms for these associations remain unclear.

References

  1. Muldoon M.F. et al. Serum Phospholipid Docosahexaenonic Acid Is Associated with Cognitive Functioning during Middle Adulthood. Journal of Nutrition. 2010.