Omega-3 fats and carotenoid supplements may improve memory in older people

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Scientists from the Waterford Institute of Technology and elsewhere found omega-3 fats and carotenoid supplements may improve working memory in older people

Previous evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids (ω-3FAs), carotenoids, and vitamin E can improve cognitive performance.

However, their collective benefits on cognition have not yet been examined in healthy individuals.

In the current study, the team examined the combined effect of ω-3FA, carotenoid, and vitamin E supplementation on the cognitive performance of older people.

They tested cognitively healthy adults aged ≥65 years. These people consumed daily 1 g fish oil (of which 430 mg docosahexaenoic acid, 90 mg eicosapentaenoic acid), 22 mg carotenoids (10 mg lutein, 10 mg meso-zeaxanthin, 2 mg zeaxanthin) and 15 mg vitamin E or placebo for 24 months.

The team found that following 24-month supplementation, people in the active group recorded much fewer errors in working memory tasks than people receiving a placebo.

They also found that as the cognitive load of the working memory tasks increased, the active group outperformed the placebo group.

Strong improvements in carotenoid and omega-3 levels were also found in the active group versus the placebo.

Moreover, the change in carotenoid and ω-3FA levels in the body was related to the change in working memory performance.

Based on the findings, the team concludes that their findings support a biologically plausible rationale whereby these nutrients work together, and in a dose-dependent manner, to improve working memory in cognitively healthy older adults.

They suggest that increasing the nutritional intake of carotenoids and ω-3FAs may prove beneficial in reducing cognitive decline and dementia risk in later life.

The research was published in Clinical Nutrition and conducted by Rebecca Power et al.

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