A new study suggests possible health benefits of fish oil supplements on brain health and aging. The study followed older adults with normal cognition, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease for over three years with periodic memory testing and brain MRI’s.
Of the 819 people participating, 117 of them were taking fish oil supplements regularly before and during the study. Brain atrophy and cognitive functioning was then compared with the supplement takers and the non-takers.
Compared to non-users, fish oil supplementation was significantly associated with better cognitive functioning during the study only in those people who had normal cognitive function at the beginning of the study and in those people who tested negative for a genetic risk factor for AD known as APOE4.
There was an association between fish oil supplementation and brain volume, but only significant in those people who were APOE4 negative. In other words, fish oil use was associated with less brain shrinkage in people taking the supplements compared with non-users.
But a Word of Warning
Taking fish oil supplements should only be taken with your doctor’s supervision for a number of reasons. Fish oils in high doses may increase bleeding time, interfere with wound healing and suppress immune function. Fish oil supplements worsened abnormal heart beats in some heart patients. Fish oil supplements are made from fish skins and livers, which may have accumulated pesticides, heavy metals, such as mercury and industrial contaminants. Unless the oils are refined to eliminate them, such contamination can further concentrated in the pills. Lastly, supplements are expensive and little is known about the long-tern effects.
It’s best to get your fish oil from fish that also provide iodine and selenium as well as an excellent source of protein. The polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA are best found in fatty cold-water fish (mackerel, salmon, bluefish, anchovy, herring, lake trout, sardines and tuna). All of these fish (except tuna) provide at least 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids in about 3.5 ounces.
Lifespan (2011, August 17). Fish oil’s impact on cognition and brain structure identified in new study. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2011/08/110817120220.htm
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