Omega three fatty acids may delay brain aging and preserve brain cells

omega three fattyacidsAnother study has found that people who have a higher level of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may also have an increased brain volume in old age equivalent to preserving one to two years of brain health.

In this study 1,111 women were tested as part of women’s health initiative study. Shrinking brain volume is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease as well as normal aging. Eight years later, when the women were an average age of 78, MRI scans were taken to measure their brain volume.

The results reflect a correlation with levels of omega-3s and larger total brain volumes eight years later.

“These higher levels of fatty acids can be achieved through diet and the use of supplements, and the results suggest that the effect on brain volume 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.

The results confirm an earlier study of 1,575 people which linked low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet to brain aging, and loss of memory and thinking ability. Omega-3 fatty acids include the nutrients called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

“People with lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids had lower brain volumes that were equivalent to about two years of structural brain aging,” said study author Zaldy S. Tan, MD, MPH, of the Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and the Division of Geriatrics, University of California at Los Angeles.


Z. S. Tan, W. S. Harris, A. S. Beiser, R. Au, J. J. Himali, S. Debette, A. Pikula, C. DeCarli, P. A. Wolf, R. S. Vasan, S. J. Robins, S. Seshadri. Red blood cell omega-3 fatty acid levels and markers of accelerated brain aging. Neurology, 2012; 78 (9): 658 DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e318249f6a9

J. V. Pottala, K. Yaffe, J. G. Robinson, M. A. Espeland, R. Wallace, W. S. Harris. Higher RBC EPA DHA corresponds with larger total brain and hippocampal volumes: WHIMS-MRI Study. Neurology, 2014; DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000080

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