Omega-3 fatty acids (FAs) could play an important role in maintaining cognitive function in aging individuals. The omega-3 FA docosahexaenoic acid is a major constituent of neuronal membranes and, along with the other long-chain omega-3 FAs from fish such as eicosapentaentoic acid, has been shown to have a wide variety of beneficial effects on neuronal functioning, inflammation, oxidation and cell death, as well as on the development of the characteristic pathology of Alzheimer's disease. Omega-3 FAs may prevent vascular dementia via salutary effects on lipids, inflammation, thrombosis and vascular function. Epidemiologic studies have generally supported a protective association between fish and omega-3 FA levels and cognitive decline. Some of the small, short-term, randomized trials of docosahexaenoic acid and/or eicosapentaentoic acid supplementation have found positive effects on some aspects of cognition in older adults who were cognitively intact or had mild cognitive impairment, although little effect was found in participants with Alzheimer's disease. Large, long-term trials in this area are needed.
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