Can fish oil help preserve brain cells?

January 22, 2014

People with higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may also have larger brain volumes in old age equivalent to preserving one to two years of brain health, according to a study published in the January 22, 2014, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Shrinking brain volume is a sign of Alzheimer's disease as well as normal aging.

For the study, the levels of omega-3 EPA+DHA in red blood cells were tested in 1,111 women who were part of the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study. Eight years later, when the women were an average age of 78, MRI scans were taken to measure their brain volume.

Those with higher levels of omega-3s had larger total brain volumes eight years later. Those with twice as high levels of fatty acids (7.5 vs. 3.4 percent) had a 0.7 percent larger brain volume.

"These higher levels of fatty acids can be achieved through diet and the use of supplements, and the results suggest that the effect on is the equivalent of delaying the normal loss of brain cells that comes with aging by one to two years," said study author James V. Pottala, PhD, of the University of South Dakota in Sioux Falls and Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Inc., in Richmond, Va.

Those with of omega-3s also had a 2.7 percent larger volume in the hippocampus area of the brain, which plays an important role in memory. In Alzheimer's disease, the hippocampus begins to atrophy even before symptoms appear.

Explore further: Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids may cause memory problems

Related Stories

Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids may cause memory problems

February 27, 2012

A diet lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients commonly found in fish, may cause your brain to age faster and lose some of its memory and thinking abilities, according to a study published in the February 28, 2012, print ...

Eating fish, nuts may not help thinking skills after all

September 25, 2013

Contrary to earlier studies, new research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may not benefit thinking skills. The study is published in the September 25, 2013, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American ...

Omega-3 dietary supplements pass the blood-brain barrier

December 4, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—New research from Karolinska Institutet shows that omega-3 fatty acids in dietary supplements can cross the blood brain barrier in people with Alzheimer's disease, affecting known markers for both the disease ...

Recommended for you

Drug used to treat cancer appears to sharpen memory

October 2, 2015

Can you imagine a drug that would make it easier to learn a language, sharpen your memory and help those with dementia and Alzheimer's disease by rewiring the brain and keeping neurons alive?

Brain chemical aids tic control in Tourette Syndrome

October 1, 2015

A chemical in the brain could potentially be harnessed to help young people with Tourette Syndrome (TS) to overcome the physical and vocal tics associated with the neurological disorder, say researchers.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.