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Fish Oil supplements Lower the Incidence of Cognitive Decline

First Posted: Jul 16, 2014 02:48 AM EDT

A new research found a positive association between intake of fish oil supplements and enhanced cognitive functioning.

Fish oil (omega-3) is derived from fatty fish like sardines, tuna, markrel and other fatty fishes. They are used along with diet and exercise for overall health and wellness. They are mostly taken to boost heart and vascular health. Fish oil supplements (FOS) is very popular as according to the latest statistics of National Diet and Nutrition Survey, one in five people take them regularly.

They are known to prevent several disorders that range from Zellweger Syndrome to Alzheimer's. Adding to the list is the new finding by researchers at the Rhode Island Hospital who found that regular use of FOS is strongly associated with a significant reduction in cognitive decline as well as brain atrophy in older adults. In this study, the researchers looked at the link between FOS use during Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ANDI) and indicators of cognitive decline. In the U.S., over 5 million people have Alzheimer's disease. It is known to be the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S..

"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," said principal investigator Lori Daiello, PharmD, of the Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders Center at Rhode Island Hospital. "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."

Older adults involved in ADNI study were assessed with the help of neuropsychological tests and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) every six months. The group included 229 older adults who were cognitively normal. Out of this, 397 were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and 193 were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers noticed that those who took fish oil supplements during the study had a significant low rate of cognitive decline, and this was measured using the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale and Mini Mental State Exam.  But, the benefit of taking FOS was more prominent in the group who did not have dementia at the time of enrolment.

"Additionally, serial brain imaging conducted during this study showed that the participants with normal cognition who reported taking fish oil supplements demonstrated less brain shrinkage in key neurological areas, compared to those who did not use the supplements," Daiello said. "Also, the positive findings on cognitive testing and brain MRI were only observed in persons who did not carry the best-studied genetic risk factor for AD, APOE-4. More research is needed, but these findings are promising and highlight the need for future studies to expand the current knowledge of the effects of FOS use on cognitive aging and AD."

The finding was documented in the journal Alzheimer's &Dementia. 

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