Higher Omega-3 Levels Linked to Larger Brain Volume

In postmenopausal women, higher omega-3 index tied to brain, hippocampal volume eight years later

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- In postmenopausal women, a higher omega-3 index is associated with increased brain and hippocampal volume eight years later, according to a study published online Jan. 22 in Neurology.

James V. Pottala, Ph.D., from the University of South Dakota in Sioux Falls, and colleagues examined the correlation between omega-3 fatty acid levels and total brain volume and anatomical regions measured eight years later. A total of 1,111 postmenopausal women from the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study were assessed for red blood cell (RBC) eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and brain volumes as measured by magnetic resonance imaging.

The researchers found that a one standard deviation (SD) greater RBC EPA + DHA (omega-3 index) level was associated with 2.1 cm³ larger brain volume (P = 0.048) in fully adjusted models. There was a marginal correlation between DHA and total brain volume (P = 0.063), and a lesser association for EPA (P = 0.11). No correlations were observed for EPA, DHA, or EPA + DHA with ischemic lesion volumes. In fully adjusted models, a one SD greater omega-3 index correlated with increased hippocampal volume (50 mm³; P = 0.036). Greater hippocampal volume was confirmed on comparison of the fourth quartile with the first quartile of the omega-3 index (159 mm³; P = 0.034).

"A higher omega-3 index was correlated with larger total normal brain volume and hippocampal volume in postmenopausal women measured eight years later," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies, including ones that offer red blood cell fatty acid tests.

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