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Omega 3 fatty acids and cognitive health in older people

  • Alan D. Dangour (a1), Valentina A. Andreeva (a2), Emma Sydenham (a1) and Ricardo Uauy (a1) (a3)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 17 May 2012

Oily fish and other sources of long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 LCPs) have been proposed as protective against dementia and age related cognitive impairment. The basic mechanisms underlying these proposed benefits have been postulated and experimental studies supporting the plausibility of the putative effects have been published. Observational epidemiological and case control studies also largely support a protective role of fish consumption on cognitive function with advancing age, albeit with important unexplained heterogeneity in findings. In this review we report the findings of the latest Cochrane review on the benefits of n-3 LCP supplementation on cognitive function among cognitively healthy older people and expand the review by including trials conducted with individuals with prevalent poor cognitive function or dementia. We identified seven relevant trials, four among cognitively healthy older people, and three among individuals with pre-existing cognitive decline or dementia, and overall conclude that there is no evidence to support the routine use of n-3 LCPs supplements for the prevention, or amelioration, of cognitive decline in later life. We identified several challenges in the design of intervention studies for the prevention of dementia and cognitive decline in older people that require careful consideration especially in recruitment and retention in long-term trials. Whether the lack of agreement in findings from mechanistic and observational data and from intervention studies reflects a real absence of benefit on cognitive function from n-3 LCP supplementation, or whether it reflects intrinsic limitations in the design of published studies remains open to question.

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*Corresponding author: Dr A. D. Dangour, fax +44 20 7958 8111, email
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British Journal of Nutrition
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