Fish Oil Supplements Not Beneficial For Fighting Dementia
June 14, 2012

Fish Oil Supplements Not Beneficial For Fighting Dementia

New research suggests that taking fish-oil supplements to try and boost memory may not be very beneficial at all.

Researchers found supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids do not appear to prevent mental decline in old age, such as dementia.

A new review that lasted three-and-a-half years failed to show alleged benefits, despite previous studies suggesting Omega-3 helped keep brain cells healthy.

Past studies found that fish-oil supplements might slow or prevent mental decline because patients with Alzheimer's disease had reduced amounts of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA.

International researchers looked at three trials of the effects of omega-3, and the benefits were compared with those of sunflower oil, olive oil or regular margarine.

Over 3,500 people over the age of 60 took part in the three trials, which lasted between six and 40 months. None of the patients in the trials had any initial signs of mental decline or dementia.

According to the findings, patients taking omega-3 scored no better in standard tests of memory and mental performance than those who were not given supplements.

Overall, less than 15 percent of participants in the test reported side effects, with the control groups just as likely to report them as the omega-3 groups.

"From these studies, there doesn´t appear to be any benefit for cognitive health for older people of taking omega-3 supplements," co-author Dr Alan Dangour of the study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews said in a statement.

Dr Alan Dangour of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and another co-author of the study, said omega-3 doesn't appear to have any benefit for cognitive health for older people.

Dangour did warn, however, that these were relatively short-term studies, so the team saw very little deterioration in cognitive function in either of the groups.

He said it may take longer to see any effect of these supplements, and omega-3 in fish oil may have other health benefits.

"So the evidence at the moment is very disappointing. But there's still an open question - if we conducted a longer study, what would that show," Dangour said in a statement to BBC News.

"Fish is an important part of a healthy diet and we would still support the recommendation to eat two portions a week, including one portion of oily fish."

Dr Marie Janson of Alzheimer's Research UK told BBC that Cochrane reviews are a great way of pulling scientific evidence together.

"While taking omega-3 supplements may not be the key to staving off cognitive problems, eating a healthy balanced diet, including fish and other natural sources of omega-3, is important for maintaining good health," she told the British news agency.

She continued: "We know that what is good for the heart can be good for the head so maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, exercising and keeping our blood pressure in check are all ways that we could reduce our risk of cognitive decline and dementia later in life."