Fish Oil May Prevent Cognitive Decline

Fish oil supplements may prevent memory loss did not appear to reverse established memory loss

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Activities like walking or doing mental puzzles are often associated with preventing cognitive decline. Taking a fish oil supplement may also be one of those activities.

A new study found that fish oil supplements helped those without any mental impairment stay that way. However, fish oil supplements did not seem to reverse any memory loss already in place.

"Speak to a dietitian about the best diet for your mental health."

Lori A. Daiello, PharmD, of Brown University in Providence, RI, led this study.

The study looked at more than 800 adults who were 55 to 90 years of age. Data for this study came from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative.

At the start of the study, 229 patients were cognitively normal, 397 had mild cognitive impairment and 193 had Alzheimer’s disease. All were assessed with neuropsychological tests (assessing for Alzheimer’s or mental decline) and brain magnetic resonance imaging. The patients with Alzheimer’s had follow-ups every six months for 24 months and then at 36 months. The others had followed up every six months for up to 48 months.

Participants reported taking fish oil supplements but did not report how much they took. Of the 819 participants, 117 reported taking fish oil.

The study authors found fish oil did not offer those who were cognitively impaired at the start of the study any benefit. However, those who did not show impairment at the start of the study scored significantly better on tests for Alzheimer’s disease and mental functioning. Those taking fish oil also showed less brain tissue loss.

The benefits of fish oil were only noted in participants who did not have the genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, known as APOE-4.

"At least one person is diagnosed every minute with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and despite best efforts, we have not yet found a cure for this pervasive and debilitating disease," Dr. Daiello said in a press release. "The field is currently engaged in numerous studies to find better treatments for people suffering with AD; however, researching ways to prevent AD or slow cognitive decline in normal aging is of utmost importance."

In an interview with dailyRx News, Jim McAleer, MPA, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association Orange County Chapter, noted that diet and lifestyle seem to be key to Alzheimer's prevention.

“Omega 3 Fatty Acids, most readily found in fish, may have an impact on slowing on the onset of Memory Impairment," he said. "That said, most clinicians indicate that if you are eating three or more helpings of fish per week, supplementation may not be necessary. As with any supplement or diet change, you should consult your doctor.”

This study was published online July 15 in Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative is funded by a variety of sources, including pharmaceutical companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb and Elan Pharmaceuticals. In addition, Dr. Brian Ott, a co-author of the study, received research support from Pfizer, Janssen, Baxter, Eli Lilly and Avid pharmaceutical companies.

Review Date: 
July 17, 2014
Last Updated:
July 18, 2014