Cognitive Benefit of Omega-3s in Older Adults Questioned

Review finds that direct evidence on the effect of omega-3 PUFA on incident dementia is lacking

THURSDAY, June 14 (HealthDay News) -- Omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) supplementation has no benefit on cognitive function in cognitively healthy older people, according to a review published online June 13 in The Cochrane Library.

To assess the effects of omega-3 PUFA supplementation for the prevention of dementia and cognitive decline, Emma Sydenham, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and colleagues reviewed randomized controlled trials that provided an omega-3 PUFA intervention for a minimum of six months. Participants were aged 60 years or older and were free from dementia or cognitive impairment at baseline.

The researchers utilized data from 3,536 participants from three randomized trials. None of the studies examined the effect of omega-3 PUFA on incident dementia. Two studies, involving 3,221 participants, found no difference in the mini-mental state examination score at final follow-up (following 24 or 40 months of intervention) between the omega-3 and placebo group. Based on two studies involving 1,043 participants, omega-3 PUFA supplementation had no beneficial effect in other tests of cognitive function such as word learning, digit span, and verbal fluency. Participants experienced either small or no cognitive declines during the studies in both the intervention and control groups. Mild gastrointestinal discomfort was the main reported side effect of omega-3 PUFA supplementation, and minor adverse events were reported by fewer than 15 percent of participants.

"Longer-term studies may identify greater change in cognitive function in study participants which may enhance the ability to detect the possible effects of omega-3 PUFA supplementation in preventing cognitive decline in older people," the authors write.

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