A new observational study found that omega-3 fatty acids helped to preserve brain health. The presence of omega-3 fatty acids in red blood cells was related to better brain structure and cognitive function. The research was conducted by scientists from the University of Texas, San Antonio and published in Neurology. The participants were 2183 healthy individuals in their 40s and 50s, including those with the APOE4 gene (which is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease). As reported in Neuroscience, the key findings include:
- Higher omega-3 levels were associated with larger hippocampal volumes. The hippocampus, a structure in the brain, plays a major role in learning and memory.
- Consuming more omega-3 fatty acids was associated with better abstract reasoning, or the ability to understand complex concepts using logical thinking.
- APOE4 carriers with a higher omega-3 index had less small-vessel disease. The APOE4 gene is associated with cardiovascular disease and vascular dementia.
This study is important because it is one of the first to study younger participants and indicates that even small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish like salmon or fish oil supplements) can improve brain health. This is also great news for carriers of the APOE4 gene, as adding this nutrient can help to balance the genetic predisposition for cognitive decline.
The Parsemus Foundation helped to launch a randomized controlled prospective trial at McCusker Alzheimer’s Research Foundation on the impact of testosterone or DHA (one of the omega-3 fatty acids) and progression to Alzheimer’s Disease. For more details, see our Reducing the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease page.