Better Cognitive Functioning in Elderly with Higher Intakes of Long-chain Omega-3

October 1, 2012


Dietary Intake of Eicosapentaenoic and Docosahexaenoic Acids is Linked to Gray Matter Volume and Cognitive Function in Elderly
Titova, O. E. et al., Age, in press, 2012
Department of Neuroscience, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden


The main goal of the present study was to determine if higher dietary intakes of EPA/DHA amongst the elderly may be associated with higher cognitive test scores and possibly greater brain volume. At age 70 years, the dietary intake of EPA/DHA was determined in 252 cognitively- healthy Swedish seniors by way of a 7-day food protocol. At age 75 years, consenting subjects agreed to participate in a MRI brain scan along with clinical testing for dementia and cognitive decline. The subjects were then stratified into four groups based on their intakes of (EPA plus DHA) ranging from a ‘very low’ group (average intake of 130 mg/day) to a ‘high’ group (average intake of 980 mg/day). No significant relations were found between EPA/DHA intakes and total brain volume. However, the reported intakes of EPA/DHA at age 70 were positively and significantly associated with the global cognitive performance scores. Those in the ‘high’ group with respect to long-chain omega-3 intakes exhibited scores which on average were 21 % better than those in the ‘very low’ group. The authors conclude that their findings suggest that ‘dietary intake of EPA and DHA may be linked to improved cognitive health in late life.

Dr. Holub's Comments:

These very interesting findings from Sweden add to the body of evidence that adequate intakes of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids can help support optimal cognitive functioning throughout the whole human ‘life cycle’. The superior cognitive scores found in the ‘high’ group averaging 980 mg/day is noteworthy since such intakes are common amongst the general population of the elderly living in Japan but 7-times greater than those living in North America (within or outside of institutions ). Further, such intakes are approximately double the recommended intake per person (500 mg/day) from the American Dietetic Association for overall health. Studies such as this raise the question as to whether omega-3 recommendations for adults should have different target intakes depending upon the age of a given sector.

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