In one of the largest and longest studies to date, no evidence was found that omega-3 can protect against cognitive decline.
However, the supplement is likely to be beneficial in many other ways, including for eye health.
Dr Emily Chew, who led the study, said:
“Contrary to popular belief, we didn’t see any benefit of omega-3 supplements for stopping cognitive decline.”
The study was originally designed to look at the potential benefits of taking nutritional supplements on the eyes.
The findings for this were positive, Dr Chew explained:
“We’ve seen data that eating foods with omega-3 may have a benefit for eye, brain, and heart health.”
But the researchers found that omega-3 had no beneficial effects on cognitive decline.
Cognitive decline is particularly important as it has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
For the study, scientists followed 4,000 seniors over five years.
Despite the results, Dr Lenore Launer, a study author, does not rule out the possibility that omega-3 might still be beneficial for brain health:
“It may be, for example, that the timing of nutrients, or consuming them in a certain dietary pattern, has an impact.
More research would be needed to see if dietary patterns or taking the supplements earlier in the development of diseases like Alzheimer’s would make a difference.”
The research was published in JAMA (Chew et al., 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Brain aging image from Shutterstock