Omega-3s Improve Thinking

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If you’re at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, then this study is a must read! Researchers at the University of Illinois found that consuming more of the omega-3s in fish oil, i.e., DHA and EPA, lowered the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. They looked at 40 mentally healthy adults between the ages of 65- and 75-years-old, who had the gene variant APOE e4, which places them at risk for developing late-onset Alzheimer’s. Those subjects who consumed higher amounts of DHA and EPA performed better on tests that assessed their ability to switch between mental tasks (called cognitive flexibility). They also had a larger anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain involved in mental flexibility.

The omega-3s, especially DHA, help prevent cognitive decline in seniors, according to a meta-analysis of the research at Nanchang University in the People’s Republic of China.

In Perspective: Most studies focus on memory; however, cognitive flexibility and other executive functions are better predictors of daily functioning and tend to decline earlier than other cognitive functions as people age. This study adds to the growing body of  research showing that the omega-3s in seafood, but not flax or soy, show promise in maintaining brain health as people age, possibly even in those at risk for dementia.

Zamroziewicz M, Paul E, Rubin R, et al:  Anterior cingulate cortex mediates the relationship between O3PUFAs and executive functions in APOE e4 carriers. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 2015: May 21st.    

Zhang X, Hou W, Li M, et al: Omega-3 fatty acids and risk of cognitive decline in the elderly. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research 2015: May 30th.

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