Omega-3 fatty acids could protect memory in healthy older people

Scientists from Charité-Universitätsmedizin found that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation could help protect memory functions in healthy older people.

Omega-3 fatty acids (also called omega-3 fats and n-3 fats). These are essential fats—the body can’t make them from scratch but must get them from food.

Foods high in Omega-3 include fish, vegetable oils, nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds, flaxseed oil, and leafy vegetables.

Omega-3 fatty acids provide the starting point for making hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation.

Likely due to these effects, omega-3 fats could help prevent heart disease and stroke, may help control lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis, and may play protective roles in cancer and other health conditions.

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. It is the most common cause of dementia in older adults.

While dementia is more common as people grow older, it is not a normal part of aging.

As the process of Alzheimer’s disease begins years before disease onset, searching for prevention strategies is very important.

Previous research has found that long-chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids may have beneficial effects on brain health.

For example, the brain uses omega-3s to build brain and nerve cells, and these fats are essential for learning and memory.

However, experimental evidence in healthy older people without dementia is inconsistent.

In the current study, researchers tested memory in older people to examine the effect of omega-3 supplementation on learning and memory formation.

They examined 44 cognitively healthy people aged 50-75 years old. These people received either an omega-3 supplement (2,200 mg/day) or a placebo for 26 weeks.

Before and after the intervention, these people’s memory performance was tested.

The researchers found that omega-3 supplementation strongly increased omega-3 levels in the body. Moreover, people’s memory was strongly improved after taking an omega-3 supplement compared with a placebo.

The team says this study provides further evidence that omega-3 has beneficial effects on memory functions in healthy older adults.

The findings suggest new ways to protect cognitive functions in old age.

The research is published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and was conducted by Nadine Külzow et al.

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