Fish Oil No Help for Seniors' Cognitive Function

April 22/London/Indo-Asian News Service -- The largest ever trial of fish oil supplements has found no evidence that they offer benefits for cognitive function in older people.

Cognitive function is an intellectual process by which one becomes aware of, perceives or comprehends ideas. It involves all aspects of perception, thinking and reasoning. The number of people with cognitive impairment is rising, and it is estimated that by 2040 more than 81 million people globally will have dementia. Some studies have suggested that high intakes of omega-3 fatty acids, most commonly found in oily fish, are important for the maintenance of good cognitive health in later life.

A study investigated the effects of taking omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplements over a two-year period on the cognitive function of participants aged 70-80 years. The study was a randomized, controlled trial led by Alan Dangour, senior lecturer at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and colleagues. It enrolled 867 participants aged 70-80 years from general practice clinics in England and Wales. Trial participants who all had good cognitive health at the start of the study were randomly assigned into two groups, one of which got fish oil capsules while the other group received a placebo for two years. Cognitive function was assessed at the start and end of the study by trained research nurses using a series of paper and pencil tests of memory and concentration.

After two years, those participants receiving fish oil capsules had significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood than those receiving placebo capsules. However, cognitive function did not change over the course of the study in either group of participants and there was no evidence that the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids had a benefit for cognitive function in older people, says a London School release.

Dangour urges caution in interpreting these results: "From the data we have collected there is no evidence of an important benefit for memory or concentration of increased omega-3 fatty acid consumption over a two year period among older people with good cognitive health."

These findings were published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

From the April 26, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition