Omega-3 intake in midlife reduced dementia risk
07 October 2022
A new research study conducted in the US suggests that people who have higher levels omega-3 fatty acids in their blood during midlife have better thinking skills than people who have lower levels of the fatty acid. Results from the study also suggest that omega-3 intake in midlife is linked to better brain structure. The scientific journal, Neurology, published the results today (Wednesday 5 October).
What did the researchers do?
Over 2,000 people with an average age of 46 who did not have dementia or stroke took part in the study.
Scientists took blood samples from the study volunteers, and then measured the levels of two types of fatty acid.
Volunteers also had brain scans, scientists then measured the volume (size) of a region of the participants responsible for memory and thinking.
Researchers then tested the volunteers’ cognitive abilities in a series of tasks.
What did they find?
Scientists saw that people who had higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids had higher scores on a cognitive test.
Those with higher levels also had a larger hippocampus, an area of the brain that plays an important role in memory.
What did our expert say?
Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“As the saying goes, ‘You are what you eat’, and just like other parts of the body, our brains can be affected by the way we live our lives, including our diet. To understand more, researchers around the world are looking at aspects of our diet to see if it helps maintain our brain health. One group of nutrients that have come under close scrutiny are omega-3 fatty acids, which are commonly found in oily fish.
“In this study, scientists looked at omega-3 fatty acid levels in the blood of people who did not have dementia, finding higher levels were more common in those with better brain structures. Of course, this doesn’t prove that high omega-3 is the reason for the differences in the scans. Research into omega-3 and brain health has produced mixed results, and while this study adds to the evidence base, it is exploratory and not conclusive. And because it only looked at people in middle age, this study only offers a snapshot of the full story – it did not look to see whether people went on to develop conditions like dementia.
“What we do know is that a healthy brain in midlife is important for brain health in later life too, and that a healthy diet overall is important in reducing dementia risk. Our research has shown that only a third (33%) of people think it’s possible to reduce their risk of dementia. However, up to 40% of dementia cases could be avoidable through health and lifestyle choices we can influence.
“As well as having a balanced diet, the best current evidence to keeping your brain healthy as you age, include not smoking, staying mentally and physically active, only drinking in moderation and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check.”
To find out more about what you can do to support your brain health, please visit https://www.thinkbrainhealth.org/