A report published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia on June 20, 2014, describes a protective effect for fish oil supplementation on the maintenance of brain volume and cognitive function in older men and women.
The study included 193 Alzheimer’s disease patients, 397 individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and 229 cognitively normal individuals who participated in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, a five-year study designed to evaluate changes in cognition and brain structure in men and women aged 55 to 90. Subjects underwent neuropsychological testing and magnetic resonance imaging of the brain upon enrollment and at six to twelve month intervals. The analysis included 117 subjects who regularly used fish oil supplements at the initial study visit, among whom a significant percentage reported continued use during subsequent visits.
While average hippocampus and cerebral cortex gray matter volume decreased over time in the group as a whole, the use of fish oil was associated with improvements in these areas. Those who used fish oil over follow-up had better scores of cognitive function at any time over the course of the study; however, the effect mainly occurred among those who were not carriers of the apolipoprotein E4 gene, which has been linked with Alzheimer’s disease.
“This retrospective cohort study is the first to examine the potential association of ongoing fish oil supplement use with conservation of brain volume and cognition across the spectrum of normal aging and neurodegeneration,” Lori A. Daiello of Brown University and colleagues announced. “The relationships of fish oil supplement use with preserved cerebral cortex gray matter volume in MCI and hippocampus volume in Alzheimer’s disease have not been previously reported.”
They concluded that their results “highlight the need for future research on the effects of long-term fish oil supplement use on cognitive aging and dementia prevention in middle-aged and older adults.”